Cilantro and Asparagus Soup

I had been harvesting asparagus for the last few days.  It is recommended to pick the spears before their tips start to open, cutting at soil level with a very sharp knife.  Since I only have a small patch, I get between four and six spears a day; I rinse the harvest of the day with cold water, then place them in a cup with one inch of water and keep them refrigerated:

saving asparagus

Finally, I had collected enough for a meal.  I was looking up recipes and trying to decide how to cook my very first batch of the 2018 season.  As I mentioned in my previous post, asparagus were brought to Mexico from Europe, and crops begun being commercially significant only in the last decade or so.  When I was a kid, I only knew of them as a beige mush out of a can of “cream of asparagus”, and later on, as part of a medley of steamed vegetables next to a steak.  Since supper time was getting close, I just settled for a family favourite:  Asparagus and pasta in basil dressing, finished with a balsamic reduction, from the American Test Kitchen.  After a delicious meal, I was left with a bunch of asparagus woody ends, from trimming the spears; I put them in a container with lid, in the fridge. The next day, I picked the day’s harvest, which consisted of six more spears, so this is what I had:

asparagus

A popular way to use the woody ends is in soup.  I wanted a Mexican flavour, so I thought of the also popular “Sopa de Cilantro” (Cilantro Soup).  Cilantro is another spring crop that came to Mexico from the Old World, but has become an essential ingredient in many Mexican dishes.  Cilantro soup started to appear in fancy restaurant menus in Mexico towards the end of the 1980s, and even became a little bit of a fad.  Because of the cilantro’s strong flavour (a “love it or hate it” for many), the soup recipes usually pair it with a vegetable, such as zucchini, potato, or even carrots.  I thought that using the fresh garden asparagus would be a great way to enhance the bright green colour of the herb, and tame its strong flavour.  A great perk of my recipe is that the soup has a thick consistency without the addition of cream, and it can be made vegan by choosing veggie broth.  It is garnished with tortilla chips instead of croutons, so it is also gluten free.  Dairy and gluten free, vegan, pretty, and gourmet; what else could be possibly asked from a soup?

Printable recipe – Cilantro and Asparagus Soup

Cilantro and Asparagus Soup

Sopa de Cilantro y Espárragos 

Ingredients

2 cups asparagus (whole spears, woody bottoms, or a mix)
¼ medium onion
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cups broth (chicken or veggie)
1 bunch cilantro
2 tbsp corn starch (for example Maizena™)
¼ cup water
Salt and pepper, to taste
Tortilla chips

Trim the asparagus spears; use a vegetable peeler to remove the tough outer layer off the woody bottoms.  The tips may be used for another recipe, or a few reserved for garnish.  Measure 2 cups to be used for the soup.  Coarsely chop the cilantro, reserving a few sprigs for garnish.  In a large pot, sauté onion (big chunks ok) with oil for two minutes; add asparagus and cook for another two minutes; add asparagus tips, if using, and cook for another two minutes:

saute onions, asparagus, then tips

If using tips for garnish, remove from pot and reserve. Add broth to the pot, bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes:

broth to veggies

Pour into a blender, add cilantro, and process until perfectly puréed, about one minute.  Pour back into the pot, bring back to boil over medium heat, then reduce heat.  In a small cup, mix corn starch and water with a whisk or fork to form a smooth slurry, and slowly add to the pot:

blend and add corn starch

Stir gently and keep cooking until thickened.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve hot, garnished with tortilla chips and reserved cilantro and asparagus tips.

sopa de cilantro y esparragos My Slice of Mexico

 

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