Saturday, May 26, 2012

Asparagus Bisque with Fresh Dill (and some Black and Whites)

After a long winter break, the farmers markets were (finally) slated to reopen. But hail and rain were in the forecast and just as I stepped out the door it started raining...hard. The prospect of going to the market on the other side of town, with a toddler and infant in tow (sans the protection of our trusty umbrella which somehow disappeared), just didn't seem worth it. 
So I decided to go to In Season, our local market that only stocks locally grown produce that season. "We are at the end of asparagus season here in Colorado," I was told by an incredibly knowledgeable woman at the counter. "Right, of course you are," I said. No asparagus. But I really wanted to make this bisque that I had seen in Love Soup by Anna Thomas.
While I try to purchase local, sustainable, seasonal fare as much as possible (it tastes better and is often cheaper), if I'm craving something that is not exactly in season, it's no big deal. I found some really bright, delicious looking asparagus at the Sunflower Market by my house (grown in California), but before I left In Season I picked up some dill, fennel bulb and the most amazing (makes you want to clap your hands) ricotta cheese made by Laz Ewe 2 Bar Goat Dairy in Del Norte, Colorado. Oh man, that is the good stuff!
About the bisque. It is packed with fresh dill and the lemon juice gives it a nice cut of acid. And, like all of Anna's recipes I've made before, it was delicious. (Anna's Old Fashioned Mushroom Soup.)
I topped a toasted crostini with some goat cheese and served it along side a big bowl of bisque. That really made the meal complete. 
Asaparagus Bisque with Fresh Dill (Courtesy of Anna Thomas, Love Soup)
1 1/4 lbs. green asparagus
2 medium leeks
1 large fennel bulb
zest+juice of a lemon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (you could substitute with olive oil)
3 tablespoons arborio rice 
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
2 1/2 cups light vegetable broth
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh dill, plus more to taste
white pepper (I used black)
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
Using a vegetable peeler or sharp knife, thinly peel the bottom 2 or 3 inches of the asparagus stalks, then snap off the toughest bits at the bottoms (peeling the bottoms first allows you to keep much more of the stalk.) Cut the stalks into 1-inch pieces; you should have about 4 cups.
Wash the leeks and chop the white and light green parts only. Trim, wash, and chop the fennel bulb. Grate the zest of the lemon, making sure to get only the yellow and none of the white pith.
Melt the butter in a large skillet or soup pot and cook the leeks over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until they are soft and begin to take on a hint of color. Add the asparagus, fennel, lemon zest, rice, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer uncovered for about half an hour, or until all the vegetables are tender.
Add 2 cups of vegetable broth, the dill, and a pinch of each pepper and cayenne.
Puree the soup in a blender, in batches, until it is perfectly smooth. (I usually use an immersion blender for pureed soups, but asparagus is fibrous, so you might want to use that blender in order to get it really smooth.) Add broth if the soup seems too thick. Return the pureed soup to a clean pot and stir in a couple of teaspoons of fresh lemon juice, more if you like. Bring the soup back to a simmer, taste it ,and season with tiny amounts of pepper, and more salt if needed. Stir in 2-3 tablespoons of cream if you are making the asparagus a bisque (or more precisely a "cream soup" as traditionally bisque refers to smooth, cream soups, based on a broth from crustaceans).
Ladle and enjoy!
* * *
As I mentioned, we had a rainy Saturday here in Denver, so it was a good excuse for us to stay indoors. While we weren't able to go to the farmers market, we tidied up our little abode and we also did a lot of cooking...
Roasted Potato, Leek and Kale Soup (by way of Not-Eating-Out-In-New-York)
Spinach and Feta Risotto (by way of Ezra Pound Cake)
Zucchini Olive-Oil Cake with Crunchy Lemon Glaze (posted here on Sparrows & Spatulas)
Beet and Tahini Dip (by way of A Lovely Morning)

Sensing that the boys were restless and could use some physical activity, I opted to let them "up-down-up-down" on our bed. Then I took these black and white photos with my 50mm lens, which I'm still fooling around with.
It wasn't long before the rain stopped and the sun was out again. The next 10 days? Sunny with temperatures in the 70s and 80s. And hopefully a lot of farmers markets in our future...
Not a bad way to spend a rainy afternoon.
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  1. Batya,

    I spent two hours making this soup tonight from start to finish! It is absolutely delicious. I'm sure it will even be more so by tomorrow! You know what they say about soup. :)
    Thanks so much for sharing this recipe.
    Thanks so much for your creativity.
    Thanks so much for writing such a killer blog.
    I absolutely ADORE it!

  2. S&S, the soup was delicious and those boys of yours are growing up quickly. Cherish this time with them. Before you know it they will be all grown up. Hopefully they will always remember their mama loved them and come home for a big bowl of soup. I'm enjoying your blog. Tremendously!

  3. Thank you so much Aztechan! I *really* appreciate your comments. I think you are officially my biggest fan....well, after my mother! So glad you like the recipes. I've found that Love Soup is one of my favorite cookbooks (along with Heidi Swanson's books and my Ina Garten collection!) I ended up finding some great asparagus at the Cherry Creek Farmer's Market last weekend. Highland markets open this Saturday! Woot.Woot! Be well!
    Reggie, Thank you so much for your comment. Both boys are still in diapers, so it may be a little while before I have to invite them over for soup :) Please continue to enjoy Sparrows & Spatulas!

  4. I made this soup last night, with the hope that it would last for more than one meal. We all LOVED it and It was gone in one sitting! It's almost as scrumptious as your boys!

  5. Hey... Laz Ewe 2 Bar Goat Dairy here, we are very happy to see happy and pleased customers. If you ever have thoughts or comments about our products we would love to here from you on our Facebook page! Thanks so much for the support