Nothing says spring time like asparagus. On this Memorial Day weekend, technically spring, but the unofficial calendar start of summer, the recipe for French Fridays with Dorie is Asparagus Soup. In New England, Asparagus season has just begun, so this choice was perfectly seasonal.
Two years ago, we relocated (uh, I mean restarted) our asparagus bed in a sunnier location. The trees near the original bed had grown and converted the lighting from sunny to part-shade. With a new asparagus bed, you let most of the stalks grow untouched for a few years, so we only cut half a dozen spears, hardly enough for this soup, but enough to enjoy in a pasta salad.
I LOVE asparagus! I don’t eat it much off-season, but in late May and June, when it’s in its prime, I can’t get enough of it.
I found this recipe to be a bit fussy, so I tried to simplify it, or at least make it work for me. For example, I’ll be honest. I’ve never been an asparagus peeler. I don’t quite get why this step is often recommended, or even necessary. The only hiccup I’ve experienced with asparagus is when I don’t cut off enough of the woody ends and it’s unchewable, but I’ve never found the peel to be a problem. But, I’m open to learning something new, so I set out to peel the asparagus, two and a half pounds of it. Truth be told, I gave up after 5 stalks.
That left me without the peelings to make the quick stock base from. I took a different tactic. I put the woody ends, and the dark green tops of my leeks, plus the peelings of five stalks of asparagus right into a pot (no wrapping in a cheesecloth, another fussy step), covered them with salted water, and boiled it for a few minutes. Then, I strained out the solids. The asparagus stalks themselves needed a quick cook too, so I brought the stock to a boil again and cooked the asparagus as the recipe called for. From there, I followed the recipe as written.
When I pureed the soup in the blender, it came out perfectly smooth, so again, I still don’t understand about the peeling step.
I served the soup hot in small bowls. I forgot to buy cream, so we ate it plain. It tasted like the essence of asparagus. I might make this again if I come into a bumper crop of asparagus, though it’s unlikely I can be convinced of to peel any of it.
To my US compatriots, Happy Memorial Day. As much as we use this day to mark the start of summer, we should also take time to remember and be thankful for those who’ve been lost serving our country. I hope you have a safe holiday weekend!
Without any doubt, lentil soup is my hands-down favorite kind of soup. I have multiple favorite recipes and rotate between them, but I’m not fixated on only those recipes and often try something new.
This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie is yet another variation on lentil soup: Orange-Scented Lentil Soup to be more specific. The basic recipe was typical, but this version’s flavorings were a little exotic. Dorie adds orange peel, chopped fresh ginger, coriander seeds, peppercorns, and a clove.
This wasn’t my favorite lentil soup ever. I doubt it will make a repeat appearance in my kitchen. It wasn’t bad, but it just didn’t wow me. The only liberty I took was to use just a quart of chicken stock because I know the soup recipes in this book can be too thin for my taste.
For one thing, this soup is pureed. I prefer whole lentils in my soup. Also, I used an immersion blender because Dorie said it would be chunkier that way. However, I had my usual trouble with that tool. It never seems to do the job I want. I never get the pot size right and usually make a big mess and cover myself and the stovetop with soup.. In addition to not liking the lentils pureed, another problem was that the immersion blender left noticeable pieces of orange peel and ginger and didn’t do anything to the whole spices. I didn’t really like the surprise of an entire coriander seed or peppercorn as I swallowed a spoonful of soup.
I served the soup topped with a dollop of yogurt and some crumbled bacon, yet even the delicious toppings didn’t make the soup a winner. (Note: if you want to try a winner recipe, check out the recipe for Spanish Lentil and Chorizo Soup in the most recent issue (March/April) of Cooks’ Illustrated magazine. It’s excellent.