With the temperatures well into the 90s already, it's crazy to feel that Spring almost feels like a distant memory. But it is. Almost. I know how short the seasons can be for fruits and vegetables when I am able to find asparagus at the farmers market one week and hardly the next. I love seeing the display of these vibrant green or sometimes purple stalks.
Asparagus season always brings about fond memories of Sunday dinners back home in France. My heart strongly swayed in favor of freshly steamed artichokes but my mother had a knack for making steamed asparagus so perfectly well that my palate was all out of sorts when it came to pick a favorite. My favorite way to eat them was when she'd serve them with a light vinaigrette. Just like I liked artichokes in vinaigrette or leeks in vinaigrette. Clearly, I have a thing for vinaigrette!
However, there are enough salads and vinaigrette in my Southern warm life to want to change things up. One of our other staples for dinners is often a big bowl of soup and a poached egg on top. We are big fans and big believers of the "life is better with poached egg on top". Makes leftovers take on a brand new life, brings a simple dish of sauteed kale and garlic to new and wonderful heights and well, just makes us weak in the knees to see that yellow yokey goodness from a farm fresh egg ...
I disgress...Soup! Yes! Soup holds a special place in our meals. When I was growing up, my mom would start every dinner with a small cup or bowl of soup. Just veggies, pureed smooth, no starch. Piping hot with a little swirl of creme fraiche. It was her ritual to ensure we'd get our veggies in. I created a whole game around it to try and name as many veggies she included as possible. I think it played a major role in developing my palate over the years.
When I was planning my move to the US in the late 90s, there was no doubt in my mind that I would keep this tradition of having soup at dinner. Then I moved to the South. The hot and humid climate of the region turned me away from steamy soup for a while. I went all out on gazpacho, Vichyssoise, cold cucumber and dill, etc... Slowly, over the years, I went back to warm, sometimes piping hot soup, no matter the weather. Not just vegetable soups like I had eaten all my life. I was onto lentil soup, chowders, single vegetable based soups, etc...
One day last week that I was making dinner for my parents(they are visiting us here), it felt as if I had turned their world upside down when I said I was going to make Asparagus and Pea Soup as a starter for dinner. We never had a soup with just two veggies when I was growing up! I knew this one would win them over just the way it had won B. over a couple of weeks before.
Some really tasty meals can come out of throwing a bit of this and a little of that together in a pot. It happened with this soup. One I could make time and time over and eat just about as much. It tastes a bit different every time. It wraps the house with the softest smell of Spring.
I guess you can make it all year long and still enjoy some of the lovely flavors. You can have anything pretty much all year long the way supermarkets are set up these days. But I encourage you to take advantage of the ingredients in season where you are. Their taste is so intense that it will often surprise your tastebuds with this "I had forgotten an eggplant had this much flavor!"
It happened with this soup when I combined the first asparagus of the season with a few handful of pea blossoms I picked up at the market. I knew the season would be short and I had waited long enough for each ingredient! That's also why I love seasonal cooking. The wait and anticipation of the first raspberries, squash blossoms. Then the explosion of flavors in our mouths sending signals of goodness all through our souls.
This soup fits the bill perfectly. Simple. Satisfying. I bet it would be even better with a poached egg on top but the herb crackers I made to go along were a great complement and a nice change to croutons. Worth waiting another Spring for!
Asparagus And Pea Soup with Herb Crackers:
Serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer and 4 as meal
1 bunch asparagus (about one pound)
1 to 2 cups pea blossoms, pea shoots or peas (fresh or frozen)
2 gloves garlic, skin removed
salt and pepper to taste
Snap the ends of the asparagus. Bring a large pot filled with water to a boil over high heat. Throw in the asparagus and cook them for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and remove the asparagus from the water with a slotted spoon and place them in a blender or food processor (or deep bowl if using an immersion blender). Do not discard the cooking water. Bring back to a boil, throw in the pea blossoms, pea shoots or peas and cook for about 3 minutes if using pea shoots/blossoms, and 5 if using fresh or frozen peas. Add the garlic at the same time you add the peas. Remove from the heat and remove the pea shoots/blossoms/peas and garlic with a slotted spoon. Reserve the cooking liquid. Place in the blender with the asparagus and puree until smooth. You might need to add some of the cooking liquid to reach the consistency that you like. Season with salt and pepper and serve either hot or room temperatures.
Makes about 24 small ones
1 stick butter at room temperature
2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon finely chopped oregano
1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
1 cup millet flour
1/2 cup sweet rice flour
1/4 cup milk (optional)
In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter and egg yolks together on medium speed until creamy looking. Add salt and pepper and the herbs and whip for 10 seconds just to mix them in at low speed. Add the millet and sweet rice flour with the mixer still on low speed. If the mixture feels too crumbly add a little bit of milk to obtain a smooth but not too wet dough. Start with one tablespoon at a time.
Gather the dough into a bowl and refrigerate for about 2 hours.
When ready to bake, turn the oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle.
Roll the dough in between 2 sheets of parchment paper and roll to about 1/4 to 1/8-inch thick. Cut cookies out in the dough and place them on a parchment lined baing sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden.
Serve with the soup.