Spring brings white asparagus. White asparagus is slightly tenderer than its green counterpart. Pamela Rothbard visit to Germany in 1997 was during the height if aspagagus season. Pamela shares this recipe and her trip.
A visit to Germany in 1997 was my maiden trip overseas. I clutched my otherwise blank passport and roamed, eager to try new exotic foods. Everywhere my fiancé and I went, chalkboard menus were scrawled with spargel-this and spargel-that. Spargel, it turned out, was simply asparagus.
We happened to visit during the height of Germany’s fleeting asparagus season and it was as if the country had no other staple. I was slightly dismayed that I had traveled 5,000 miles to eat asparagus. But I’ve never seen a country do so much with an ingredient so simple. Germans refer to their white asparagus crop as white gold, and their preparations are inspired. My favorite, by far, was spargelcremesuppe—white asparagus soup. I was amazed that something with so little color could pack so much flavor.
White asparagus is slightly tenderer than its green counterpart. It’s grown covered in dirt and mulch to hide it from light, and that lack of chlorophyll results in the stalks’ pure white appearance. White asparagus are less widely grown than green and are therefore a bit pricier and harder to come by. Chefs eagerly await these vegetables in the same way they crave ramps and fiddleheads.
We’re on the brink of our own spargalsaison (asparagus season) here in Illinois, a perfect time to haunt your local grocer in search of those lovely white spears. Look for straight white stalks without dried-out ends, and use your find within two days of purchase. The following soup recipe makes excellent use of the springtime treat.
Spargelsuppe (White Asparagus Soup)
Makes 6 servings
✶ 1 1/2 -2 pounds white asparagus
✶1/2 cup chopped onion (1 small)
✶2 tablespoons butter
✶6 cups broth, either chicken or vegetable
✶1/2 cup half and half
✶2 tablespoons dry white wine
✶Salt, to taste
✶Fresh ground pepper, to taste
✶Parmesan cheese, to taste
✶1 lemon, zested
1. To prepare asparagus, hold a spear just below the head and move peeler down toward the cut end to shave of tough woody outermost stalk. After peeling, cut off last inch of end and discard. Cut the delicate heads off the asparagus and set aside. Cut the rest of the stalks into 2-inch pieces.
2. In the bottom of a 4-quart saucepan, sauté the onion in the butter until soft. Add the pieces of asparagus stalks (not the heads) and steam for 5 minutes. Add the broth and boil gently for about 30 minutes, or until the asparagus is very soft.
3. Purée the soup in batches in the blender (or in the pot with a hand-held immersion blender) and return to pan.
4. Bring to a simmer and add the reserved asparagus heads. Cook at least 5 minutes, or until heads are fork-tender. Turn down the heat and add the cream and wine. Do not boil further.
5. Taste and add salt and freshly ground pepper as needed. You can also add a few squeezes of fresh lemon to brighten up flavor. Garnish with lemon zest and freshly-grated parmesan cheese. Essen (eat).
Tip: Try these garnishes for different flavor profiles: cilantro, thyme, sriracha, zested lime, basil.
Recipe from Pamela Rothbard and adapted from germanfood.about.com. and http://makeitbetter.net/dining/spring-brings-white-asparagus/
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