With Spring, our hearts, minds and taste buds yearn for the brightness of new, fresh tastes. Soups can fit the bill. As they come into season, the new vegetables, herbs and fruits are candidates for lively, liquid concoctions that make a brilliant brunch or lunch or captivating first course at dinner. Many may be served warm or chilled. Here are three, designed for early, mid- and late spring produce.
To me, spring means that it’s time to eat asparagus. I especially love having a soup that I created made up of asparagus, leeks, sweet peas, scallions, lime juice and Parmesan. And while it has a delicate, and flavorful taste and aroma, I wanted to somehow make it more dazzling in appearance.
I have a recipe for a mushroom soup that is topped with puff pastry and baked in the oven. I decided to adapt the same idea to my asparagus soup.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium leeks, cleaned, sliced 1/4 inch thick
4 scallions, in 1-inch pieces
6 cups vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 and 1/2 cups sweet peas
1 pound thin asparagus, trimmed, peeled, sliced into 1-inch diagonal pieces
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring frequently, about 13 minutes. Add the scallions and cook one more minute.
Add broth, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Add peas, asparagus, lime juice, and Parmesan.
After preparing the soup, I poured it into a 1 and 1/2-quart soufflé dish and chilled it until it was cool. Then, I rolled one sheet of puff pastry into a circle about 1 and 1/2 inches larger than the soufflé dish and placed it on top, pressing the dough around the rim of the dish. I brushed an egg wash on the pastry and baked it at 400 degrees, until it was nicely browned (about 38 minutes). This is what it looked like when it was ready:
I used a sharp knife to break into the pastry and ladle soup and a piece of the pastry into each plate.
RADISH, DANDELION and MINT SOUP
The three major ingredients of this soup are wonderful when harvested early. Young radishes are less peppery and sweeter at this time, their leaves tender, slightly sweet, a little peppery and a bit grassy. Dandelion greens are best - less bitter - when the leaves are very young, small and tinged with red. Mint is at its sweetest. Combine them with sweet onion and a good vegetable broth for a treat that shouts SPRING! Tickle the fancy of your guests with an adorable radish mouse on the side.
For the soup
4 cups radish leaves
2 cups dandelion greens
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon white vinegar (to enhance the green color)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup sweet onion, such as Vidalia, chopped
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup mint leaves
Roughly chop the radish leaves and dandelion greens.
Boil the water with the vinegar.
Parboil the leaves and greens for 2 minutes, then plunge into ice water. Drain.
Sauté the onion in the butter until tender.
Add the vegetable broth. Bring to boil.
Add the mint, radish leaves and dandelion greens and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Blend until smooth. Serve warm.
For each radish mouse
1 good looking radish
!. Position each radish so that the root end goes upward to suggest the mouse’s tail. Trim the leafy stem at the front of the radish to resemble a mouse’s pointed nose.
2. For eyes, make 2 small holes with a knife where the eyes would be; insert 2 cloves, stem side in.
3. Cut a slice, about 1/8-inch thick, from the bottom of the radish. This will stabilize the “mouse” on the plate and serve as “ears.” Cut the slice in half; trim the straight, cut end as needed to get the right size “ears.” Make two small slits with a sharp knife on the top Insert the “ears” into the slits, with the white side to the front.
Cold Cherry Soup with Arugula Pesto
Cherries are my favorite fruit; I just love their sweet flavor. They’re not just delicious as a snack or in pies, they’re healthy too as they are jam-packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They’re low in calories, but I don’t care about that, I just adore their sweet flavor.
In my four attempts to make a cold cherry soup, some were too sweet and some were too spicy. Spicy cherries! No, of course not. I decided to add an arugula pesto to counter balance the sweetness of the soup. Made with fresh ginger in lieu of garlic, coconut milk in lieu of olive oil, black pepper, grated parmesan, along with toasted almonds and a squeeze of lemon, this pesto was a nice rift on the usual. Unfortunately, it would not rest on top of the soup but came together deliciously when swirled into the soup.
George Washington may or may not have chopped down a cherry tree, but if he did, who could blame him, as long as he enjoyed the fruits of his labor!
4 cups of fresh, pitted sweet cherries, frozen is also acceptable
2 cups of almond milk
2 cups of half & half
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/8 cup of Crème de Cassis
Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.
Chill until serving.
2 tightly packed cups of arugula, large leaf
1/8 cup toasted slivered almonds
1/8 cup of water
1/8 cup of coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon grated ginger
1/8 cup of grated Parmesan
Juice of 1/2 lemon
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Salt to taste
Combine all ingredients into a blender and pulse until your desired consistency.
To serve, swirl one teaspoon of pesto into each soup bowl and serve immediately.