Asparagus:  Yes, we all know its a spring vegetable, it can be cultivated or found growing wild, but did you know it was once classified in the same family as a lily?  AND that its considered a flowering perennial?  For all you vintage cookbook aficionados, did you know that there is a recipe for asparagus in the oldest book of recipes:  De re coquinaria Book III by Apicius - 3rd century.  They were mad about it in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, but it lost its favor during the European conquests until Louis XIV took a hankering to it and built some special greenhouses!!

Asparagus is low in calories, low sodium and it a super source of vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium and zinc, let alone a good source of dietary fiber!  In fact, this special little stalk is loaded with almost all the most important vitamins and minerals, so you really cant go wrong.

While my husband and I were in England, I had some delicious fresh asparagus cream soup.  In April, they were ahead of us when it came to all things spring.   When I got home, I searched for a Cream of Asparagus Soup recipe and after a little conglomeration, this is what we brewed up in our kitchen.  DO NOT be put off by the finishing touch of adding a poached egg to the soup.  Think about it.  What is the most traditional sauce accompanying asparagus?  Hollandaise.  And what is hollandaise sauce made from, eggs and butter.  So free yourself of your first reaction. ENJOY!

Cream of Asparagus Soup

2 bunches of trimmed green asparagus
1 leek, washed, trimmed & cut into 1/2" pieces
5 T butter (I used a nice Irish butter for this recipe)
1 pint of good chicken stock (use vegetable stock if you are a vegetarian)
2 T heavy cream
1 T olive oil
Kosher Salt
Fresh ground cracked pepper
4 small eggs for poaching

Prepare the asparagus by cutting into 2 inch pieces, leaving the tops for garnish later.
Melt 4 T butter into a large, heavy bottom sauce pan.  When melted, add the leeks and asparagus.  Saute for about 4 minutes.  The leeks and asparagus will be soft, but not completely cooked.

To the same pan, add the stock.  Bring the entire mixture to a boil.  Simmer 10-15 minutes until the vegetables (mainly the asparagus) is cooked completely through.

While the vegetable are cooking in the stock, put the tips of the asparagus into a small bowl and mix with the olive oil.    Quickly fry the tips in a hot fry pan (or preferably on a grill or grill pan).  This should only take about a minute or two.  Do not overcook!

Once the vegetables have cooked through, remove the soup from the heat and process the entire mix with either a hand blender (my preferred choice) or put into a food processor and blend until completely smooth.  Add salt and pepper to taste.   Return the mix to the pot, adding the cream and reheating to desired temperature.

Serve the soup in a good-sized soup bowl.  Add the poached egg to the center of the soup bowl and the grilled asparagus tips on top of the egg.

This soup can be served cold (minus the poached egg, of course).  You can poach your egg, immediately before serving!

Hawley and Jenni's favorite way to make asparagus: 

Roasted.   Just wash and trim the ends of the asparagus and remove the woody portion.   Toss the whole spears with some olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper and place in one layer on a large baking sheet.  Roast in preheated 350 degree oven about 20-30 minutes, keeping an eye on it, to make sure its not overcooked.   Remove and serve with a little bit of shredded parmesan cheese over the top!

Sauteed:  Prepare asparagus as above, cutting the spears in half.   Heat a nonstick frying pan and add olive oil to the hot pan.  Then add the asparagus, stirring occasionally.  Season with salt, pepper and a little crushed red pepper to taste!


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