This hearty main-course dish celebrates spring
It’s spring in our part of the world. But the weather service has issued a freeze warning. That’s April for you.
That’s also why we still crave hearty soups for dinner. Like this Asparagus and White Bean soup, which is quick and easy to prepare. It’s a wonderful weeknight way to celebrate fresh, local asparagus.
Because April. And asparagus.
Recipe: Asparagus and White Bean Soup
We usually serve this soup as a main course (just add some bread and a salad if it isn’t enough for your table). But you could serve smaller quantities as a starter.
Prep time for this dish is about 10 minutes. Cooking time adds another 20 minutes or so.
This recipe yields 4 main-course servings. Leftovers keep for a few days if refrigerated in an airtight container. Or you can freeze them for up to two months.
- ~1 pound asparagus
- 2 tablespoons butter (may substitute olive oil)
- ½ cup shallots, finely minced (or to taste; may substitute onion)
- salt to taste (about ½ teaspoon kosher salt for us; see Notes)
- 2 14-ounce cans of white beans (we like to use cannellini, but any white bean works)
- 3 to 4 cups chicken stock (to taste; we start with 3, then add more if necessary)
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme (to taste; see Notes)
- ½ cup heavy cream (very optional)
- ~2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (optional but tasty)
- 1 additional tablespoon butter (optional)
- reserved asparagus tips for garnish (optional)
- lemon slices for garnish (optional)
- Cut off the tough butt ends of the asparagus spears (about 2 inches). Rinse the asparagus. If you want to use some of the tip ends of the asparagus as garnish: Cut off about 2 inches and cook the tips separately. Place the asparagus tips in a small covered dish that’s microwave safe. Add a tablespoon of water, then zap the asparagus tips in the microwave for about 2 minutes, or until tender. Then immediately plunge the asparagus tips into a bowl of ice water for a minute. Remove the tips and drain them until ready to use.
- Chop the remaining asparagus spears into pieces of ½ inch or a bit less. Set aside.
- Place a cooking pot (use one that holds about 4 quarts) on medium stovetop heat. Add 2 tablespoons of butter. When it’s melted, add the shallots. Season with salt to taste, then sauté the shallots for about 2 minutes (if using onion, sauté for about 5 minutes). Add the chopped asparagus spears (from Step 2) and sauté for another 5 minutes (add more salt to taste if necessary).
- Open the cans of white beans and pour them into a strainer that you’ve set over the sink. Rinse off the gunk the beans are stored in, then drain them. When you’ve finished sautéing the asparagus and shallots, add the white beans to the cooking pot, along with the chicken stock and dried thyme. Stir to combine, then simmer for 10 to 15 minutes (until the asparagus is as tender as you like). If you want the soup to have a smooth consistency, zap it with an immersion blender (we usually blend for 10 seconds or less – just enough to merge the ingredients, while still retaining a somewhat chunky texture).
- Add the cream, if using. Stir to combine. Then stir in the lemon juice, if using. Add the additional tablespoon of butter, if using, and allow it to melt into the soup.
- Ladle the soup into bowls. Add the cooked asparagus tips (from Step 1) for garnish, if desired. Add a lemon slice to each bowl for additional garnish, if desired. Serve and enjoy.
- We used fairly thin asparagus spears when we made this soup (because they were the best-looking ones in our market). Thicker spears work just as well, though they may require a bit longer cooking time.
- Don’t want to blanch the asparagus tips in the microwave? You can instead boil or steam them until tender, then shock them in ice water.
- We used dried thyme for this dish, but fresh thyme works well too.
- Fresh tarragon would make a great substitute for thyme (we don’t recommend using dried tarragon). You could also substitute chopped parsley. Or any herb you like, really.
- Instead of chicken stock, you could substitute vegetable stock. Or even water.
- Cream isn’t necessary in this dish, but it adds a nice hit of flavor. If you reduce the amount of chicken stock by half a cup or so and increase the amount of cream, you can turn this recipe into Cream of Asparagus and White Bean Soup.
- Lemon juice brightens the flavor of this dish. But it’s optional – the soup will taste fine without it.
- Butter adds richness and gloss to the soup. But again, it’s optional.
- We use kosher salt in cooking. It’s less salty by volume than regular table salt (the crystals are larger and more irregular, so they pack a measure less tightly). If you’re using table salt, start with about half the amount we suggest. But always season to your taste, not ours.
“Yum, asparagus,” said Mrs Kitchen Riffs. “And soup is so perfect for the cold weather we’re having.”
“Yeah, we wore shorts yesterday,” I said. “Now we’re waiting for frozen precip. It’s weather whiplash.”
“Mother Nature changes her mind at will,” said Mrs K R. “You may need to mow grass in the snow.”
“Nature is pretty indecisive,” I said. “If she were a vegetable, we’d call her uhh-sparagus.”
“Where did that comment come from?” said Mrs K R. “The cold must be addling your brain.”
Well, who said making weather jokes was a breeze?
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