Of course, there have been specific recipes in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table that have become favorites. Lazy People’s Chicken is at the top of that list. However, more than the recipes, it’s the techniques and “formulas” that I’ve learned and added to my repertoire that make this book such a treasure.
This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie was one of these non-recipe formulas. Christine’s Simple Party Soups was this week’s challenge. Dorie offers a trio of soups: red pepper, asparagus, and broccoli. The recipes were as simple as you can imagine. Basically, the ingredient list includes just two things: the featured vegetable and some stock. Hmmpf! How could that be tasty?
Most soups I make, and I make a lot of soups, start with sautéed onions in butter and oil and maybe some carrots, celery, and garlic before adding the main vegetable. For this soup, there’s none of that. You add chopped vegetables to boiling stock and simmer until the vegetables are cooked, then puree in the blender. That’s it. That’s all.
The end result should be called Essence of Vegetable Soup. The flavor of the featured vegetable comes through loud and clear. And, it’s January, so vegetables aren’t even at their peak. (I used frozen asparagus, fresh red peppers and broccoli).
To top the soups, Dorie offers instructions for spiced whipped cream. I’m not a huge fan of whipped cream, so, instead, I used dollops of Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of the recommended spice, a different one for each soup. That would be red pepper flakes (I used Aleppo) for the red pepper soup, cardamom for the asparagus, and curry powder for the curry. I loved the light touch of spice with each soup. I’m wondering how it would be to add the spice to the soup as it simmers, but I’m worried that the pure vegetable essence that I also loved would be lost.
Each soup was distinct and delicious. Though I reduced the liquid by two-thirds because I like my soup thicker than Dorie does, the red pepper was still very thin compared with the others. My favorite is either the asparagus or the broccoli. It’s hard to choose. Howard was away most of the week, but liked the red pepper soup as a starter for last night’s dinner. He brought asparagus soup for lunch today, but I haven’t gotten a report yet.
My mind is running through the roster of other vegetables that could be used. I’m hoping this will be equally successful with winter’s root vegetables, like carrots, squash, or rutabaga. I’ll be giving it a try.
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!