I happen to think that asparagus is one of the best vegetables. Strangely enough, I think a lot of “a” vegetables (and fruits I suppose) are great: asparagus, artichokes, avocados… so this is a soup I was happy to try. Since I would be having this as a meal, not a starter, I thought I’d follow up on my Food Revolution post with adding Cornmeal Muffins to this. It actually works nearly perfectly, because the muffins bake for about 20 minutes – which happens to be about the time needed for the soup! Synergy!
But this is supposed to be about the soup (first), so we’ll start there. I’d purchased my asparagus ahead of time (thinking that I could fit the soup in prior to my trip to Pennsylvania – didn’t work out), but it was still pretty nice, if not perfect – so soup was a great use for it. The ingredients are incredibly simple. I couldn’t find leeks when I was shopping, so I used all sweet Hawaiian onion. But really, onion, garlic, asparagus, salt, white pepper, water, a little butter and oil…
I did change the method a little. I prepped the asparagus, by rinsing, then I snapped off the “woody” ends. The “good” parts were just cut in half. There are some more involved steps (aka – involving more dishes to wash) in Dorie’s recipe, but I just simmered the ends for about 10 minutes, removed them, and went on with the soup.
While that was simmering to get the most flavor into the broth for the soup, I sauteed my onions and garlic until they were meltingly soft.
Then, the onions are added to the original stock and simmered some more. After that, the other asparagus is added, and the whole thing cooked together for about 5-6 minutes (Dorie has us pre-cooking the asparagus in the broth, I just added an extra minute at the end)
This all gets blended to a silky soup. I used my hand blender and did not strain the soup. I suppose if I were having this for an extremely fancy dinner party, I might be tempted because it would make this more elegant, but this turned out beautifully enough as it was. I also used one of Dorie’s suggestions for a garnish. I whipped up some plain cream to place on top.
As I mentioned above, I think that muffins are basic recipe that everyone should master. They are easy, economical and offer endless variety. As well, when you want to make something homemade they are difficult to beat. I often make them to take to the office as they are both quick and a welcome treat.
The real trick to muffins is don’t over-mix. Once all of the dry ingredients are mixed together, and the wet thoroughly combined, everything is incorporated with just a few strokes (lumps and a pebbly look are ok). This keeps the gluten from forming and making them tough. Corn muffins are a bit more forgiving, and some recipes even call for a lot of mixing – but the classic method is a quick few strokes.
All muffins are generally based on the same formula. Occasionally I will do something different, but this is generally it:
2 c flour (total – for my corn muffins, I usually use 1 c cornmeal, 1 c flour – you can also do even more grains and add whole wheat or other flours, and of course, the ratio can be different)
1 T baking powder
2-5 T sugar
1 c milk
¼ c oil (in this case, I use bacon grease – you can use any kind of oil or melted butter)
These will accept any number of add-ins as well: cooked, crumbled bacon, blueberries, nuts (pecans are good) grated zest of lemon, lime or orange, chopped peaches, whole kernel corn, cheese, chopped tomatoes, fresh herbs (basil is particularly good), a swirl of pesto…
So, the method is easy – choose what flours you want to use (for these, I use 1 c flour, 1 c cornmeal), what type of fat (bacon grease for these) and how sweet you want them to be (I used 1/4 c sugar – I like the sweet muffins with the salt-smoky hint of bacon).
The dry ingredients are mixed together. The BG is melted, then the wet ingredients are incorporated (don’t worry if the fat turns back to partially solid, it will still work). (at this point, you’d prep your add-ins as well if you’re using them)
Once you’re all set, and your pan is prepped (I still use an old pan from my Grandmother and simply spray with Pam) and the oven is heated to 400 degrees, you’re ready for your quick mix.
This should take no more than just a few seconds. I like to use the “spoonula” because I can get a thorough mix, and also use it to scoop into the pan. I bake these for about 20 minutes, then cool, tipped in the pan.
As I mentioned, I often take these (or others like them) to work. It’s only about 10 minutes of actual work, then they’re in the oven for about 20 minutes – I can be off getting ready during their baking time. Warm muffins are definitely a treat.
So, my dinner complete, this ended up being an enjoyable meal. Simple, pure asparagus flavor in the soup. It was tasty warm, but maybe even better cold?