Kitchen Tip of the Week – Common Ingredient Substitutions

20 10 2008

Even cooks with well stocked pantries occasionally find themselves missing a key ingredient.  This usually occurs when you’re in the middle of making dinner, with guests on the way and no time to run to the store to get what you need!  This week I’m making a list of common substitutions that you can use if you ever find yourself in such a situation.

Of course, using a substitute isn’t going to yield exactly the same results as using the original ingredients. Use common sense (and your eyes and tastebuds!) – you may have to adjust moisture content or seasonings so everything will work together properly.  

Common Ingredient Substitutions

  • For 1 cup Buttermilk SUBSTITUTE: 1 Tablespoon lemon juice OR white vinegar + milk to make 1 cup.  Let sit 5 to 10 minutes before using.

 

  • For 1 teaspoon Baking Powder SUBSTITUTE: 1/4 teaspoon baking soda + 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar + 1/4 teaspoon cornstarch

 

  • For 1 oz. Unsweetened Chocolate SUBSTITUTE: 3 Tablespoons cocoa powder (not Dutch processed) + 1 Tablespoon shortening OR unsalted butter OR vegetable oil

 

  • For 1 Tablespoon Cornstarch, for thickening sauces SUBSTITUTE: 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour

 

  • For 1/2 teaspoon Cream of Tartar SUBSTITUTE: 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar OR lemon juice

 

  • For 1 cup Half-and-Half SUBSTITUTE: 1/2 partially skimmed milk (1% or 2%) + 1/2 cup whipping cream (35%)

 

  • For 1 cup Sour Cream SUBSTITUTE: 1 cup plain yogurt OR 1 Tablespoon lemon juice + whole milk to fill 1 cup.  Let stand 10 minutes before using.

 

  • For 1 cup Mascarpone Cheese SUBSTITUTE: 3/4 cup cream cheese + 1/4 cup whipping cream beaten together.

 

  • For 1 teaspoon Allspice SUBSTITUTE: 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon + 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

 

  • For 1 Tablespoon chopped Fresh Herbs SUBSTITUTE: 1 teaspoon dried herbs OR 1/2 teaspoon ground herbs.

 

  • For 1/2 cup Maple Sugar SUBSTITUTE: 1 cup maple syrup

 

  • For 1 cup Brown Sugar SUBSTITUTE: 1 cup granulated sugar + 1/4 cup molasses

 

  • For 2 cups Fresh Chopped Tomatoes SUBSTITUTE: One 16 oz. can tomatoes

 

Ciao!

Trish





Kitchen Tip of the Week – Melting Chocolate

14 10 2008

It’s the day after Thanksgiving and I’m in recovery mode from a weekend of cooking and good eating so I’m keeping things simple. Today’s tip is one that can be used for baking and dessert preparation throughout the year: melting chocolate.  Plus, I’m including a delicious recipe for chocolate pudding that is low in fat! Or at least lower in fat than regular pudding, which usually calls for eggs and cream.  Cornstarch is the secret ingredient, making the pudding taste thick and rich with out excessive amounts of fat.  Perfect for those of us who had too much turkey and pumpkin pie over the weekend!

Tips for Melting Chocolate

Chocolate will burn very easily if exposed directly to heat so you can’t just throw it in a pot and turn up the burner.  It has to be melted with indirect heat, which can be done in the microwave or with a double boiler.  Chopping the chocolate first helps it melt faster.

Microwave Method: Chop your chocolate into chunks and put into a microwave safe bowl.  On medium power (5), heat for 1 minute.  Check chocolate and stir.  Return to microwave and heat on medium for another minute and check again.  Repeat until chocolate is shiny and melted (the length of time will depend on how much chocolate you have and how powerful your microwave is).  Note: it is possible to burn chocolate in the microwave so don’t just put it in for 5 minutes without checking on it!

Stove-top Method: If you have a double-boiler pot, that’s great but it’s not necessary. You can easily improvise using a regular saucepan and a metal mixing bowl.  Pour about 2-1/2″ of water into the saucepan and heat until it is simmering gently (not a hard boil).  Place a metal mixing bowl over the boiling water and put your chopped chocolate into the bowl.  Make sure the bowl isn’t touching the water. Stir chocolate until it melts, holding the bowl steady if necessary (wear an oven mitt – the bowl may get hot!). Watch the steam – water will ruin your melted chocolate (see below).

An improvised double-boiler, using a saucepan and metal bowl

An improvised double-boiler, using a saucepan and metal bowl

You can use your favourite chocolate for melting but avoid using chocolate chips if you want your chocolate to melt smoothly. They are designed to keep their shape while baking in cookies and contain an ingredient to keep them from melting completely.

Make sure no water gets into your chocolate as it’s melting.  It will ‘seize’, meaning it will turn lumpy and grainy.  If water does accidentally get into the chocolate, you can try to save it by adding vegetable oil or vegetable shortening to it and stirring until combined.

‘Tempering’ the chocolate is a technique that prepares the chocolate for dipping or coating items so it retains a gloss.  For detailed instructions on tempering chocolate, check out Tempering Instructions from Godiva Chocolatier.

Chocolate Pudding

This is a great alternative for people who can’t eat eggs, as well as anyone who wants to avoid the high fat content in traditional custard-based puddings.  It’s so creamy and chocolate-y, you won’t even miss the eggs and cream!

Makes 4 servings

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups milk (low fat is ok)
  • 1 Tablespoon strong coffee OR coffee liqueur such as Kahlua
  • 1/2 cup melted chocolate (about 5 oz. before melting)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  1. In a large saucepan on medium heat, whisk together sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch, flour and salt with 1 cup of the milk.  Whisk hard until all of the cocoa powder has dissolved.
  2. Stir in the remaining 1 cup of milk, coffee, melted chocolate and vanilla.  Whisk briskly so the melted chocolate stays smooth and is thoroughly incorporated.
  3. Simmer the pudding mixture on medium-high heat, stirring continuously until it becomes quite thick, about 5 minutes.  At the last minute, whisk in the butter. Pour pudding into individual cups (see below for serving suggestions).  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Serving suggestions:

  • Pour into individual martini glasses, wine glasses or other attractive glassware.
  • Pour into small bowls or ramekins.
  • You can layer pudding with crumbled cookies in a glass serving dish for an attractive presentation.
  • Sprinkle with chopped nuts, shaved white chocolate, your favourite fruit or berries, a dollop of whipped cream, etc.
  • Instead of coffee or coffee-liqueur, use orange-flavoured liqueur such as Grand Marnier.  Garnish with a tangerine or clementine slice.

Bon Appetit and Enjoy!

Chocolate pudding garnished with chopped nuts and hazelnut biscotti

Chocolate pudding garnished with chopped nuts and hazelnut biscotti





Kitchen Tip of the Week – Garlic 101

7 10 2008

Garlic is one of my favourite recipe additions.  I even own a couple of cookbooks dedicated to garlic, including ‘Garlic, Garlic, Garlic’ by Linda and Fred Griffith.  Garlic is very versatile:  from roasting it to bring out its sweetness to rubbing it raw on bruschetta toasts, it can be used in an endless number of dishes. There are even dessert recipes that use garlic, although they’re a bit extreme for my tastes!

Garlic is closely related to the onion family.  It is used around the world for both culinary and medicinal purposes.  China is the world’s largest producer of garlic, growing over 20 billion pounds a year, which they export worldwide.  Garlic is also grown in Canada and the United States and can often be found at farmer’s markets in the summer.  It keeps well in a cool, dry, open place but do not refrigerate or freeze it.  I keep mine in a basket in the kitchen so it’s always accessible.

Here are some garlic facts and tips you can use in your kitchen:

Garlic 101

To separate a head of garlic into cloves, peel off the papery outer layers and smash the top of the garlic head with the heel of your hand.  It should separate, allowing you to pull apart the individual cloves.

***

To peel the cloves, use the flat side of a large knife to lightly smash the side of the clove.  The skin will easily peel away.  The fresher the garlic is, the more the skin will stick to the cloves.

***

To chop garlic, peel the clove.  Using a sharp knife, cut into thin slivers and then chop up the slivers.

***

A microplane grater can be used if you need to mince garlic finely.  Just run a peeled clove over the microplane and put the grated garlic into your dish.

***

Another way to mince garlic is as follows: Put a pinch of salt on a cutting board. Place a peeled garlic clove on its side and smash hard with the side of a large chef’s knife.  Use the knife to chop it finely.

***

Avoid using a garlic press if possible.  A lot of people swear they change the taste of garlic.  This is debatable but they are definitely a pain to clean.  It’s much easier to use a knife or microplane.

***

Avoid pre-minced garlic that comes in a jar.  Compared to fresh garlic, it’s very expensive and will not have the same pungent flavour as fresh.  Likewise, don’t use garlic powder or salt – fresh is better!

***

If you’re following a recipe that calls for garlic powder or garlic salt, you can make the following substitutions:  1/8 teaspoon garlic powder = 1 small fresh garlic clove.  1/2 teaspoon garlic salt = 1 small fresh garlic clove.  

***

Garlic burns very easily which can ruin a dish.  Watch it very carefully when sauteeing.  If I’m also browning onions, celery, etc.  I will add the garlic toward the end.

***

It’s difficult to get garlic off your breath but chewing on a sprig of parsley can help.  There are also parsley oil capsules you can take that will help with garlic breath.  

***

To get garlic smells off your fingers after working with garlic, rub your fingers on something stainless steel, such as the blade of a knife.  You can buy stainless steel ‘stones’ that have been marketed specifically for this use but you can save yourself some money by using what you have on hand.

***

Roasting garlic mellows and sweetens its flavour.  It can be used in a number of ways, such as spreading on fresh bread, mixing with mashed potatoes and mixing with mayonnaise to make a delicious spread for sandwiches.

Roasted Garlic

  • Whole heads of garlic (as many as you need)
  • 1 Tablespoon neutral oil OR olive oil per garlic head
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Peel the outer layer off the garlic heads.  Slice the top 1/4 off each head, revealing the cloves.  Place them in an oven-proof dish and drizzle each head of garlic with oil. 
  3. Cover the dish with a lid or foil and roast for about 1 hour.  Check on after and hour and spoon any juices over the cloves.  Return to the oven and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes or until the cloves are tender. 
  4. Let cool and squeeze garlic out of the cloves and use as desired.

 

Bon Appetit and Enjoy!





Kitchen Tip of the Week – How to Cook Perfect Pasta

30 09 2008

Dried pasta is an excellent option for dinner: it’s quick, delicious, versatile and very economical.  It has suffered from a bit of a bad reputation in recent years as people steered away from carbohydrates in favour of low-carb, meat-heavy diets but in moderation, pasta can be incorporated into most diets.  There are also high fibre pastas made with whole wheat and grains that are a welcome option for many people.

The key to a successful pasta dinner is to cook the noodles properly.  At the Italian table, the pasta is the star, not the sauce.  The pasta should not be drowned out in sauce – it should merely be dressed with enough to compliment it.  Therefore, it is important that we cook the pasta properly.

How to Cook Perfect Pasta

The following pointers apply to dried pasta (spaghetti, penne, etc), as opposed to fresh. Fresh pasta has a much shorter cooking time and the texture is quite different from dried.

What You’ll Need:

  • Dried pasta – any type, such as penne, spaghetti, bucatini, etc.  See below for tips on what types of pasta to use.
  • Lots of water
  • Salt
  • A large stockpot with a cover
  • A strainer
  • Large spoon
  • Kitchen timer

Select your pasta.  There are literally hundreds of kinds of dried pastas available and they are all made of the same basic ingredients (flour/durum semolina, water and sometimes egg).  The shape you choose will depend on what type of sauce you’re serving with it.  For example, chunky sauces work well with pastas that can catch the sauce, such as rigatoni or orecchiette.  For a creamy sauce, you might want to choose a penne or macaroni so the creamy goodness gets inside the tubes of pasta.  For more information about pasta shapes, check out The National Pasta Association’s website.

 
Add water to stockpot.  The amount you will need will depend upon how much pasta you’re using.  However, it’s important that you use enough.  Some guidelines are as follows:

  • For each pound of pasta, use 4 to 6 quarts of water.  The rough metric translation is about 4 to 5-1/2 litres of water per 450 grams of pasta.  Adjust amounts according to the amount of pasta you are cooking.

Salt the water – generously.  Salt will help flavour the pasta.  Again, the amount of salt will depend upon how much pasta you’re making but the water should be almost as salty as seawater.  For the proportions given above (6 to 8 quarts) add about 2 Tablespoons of salt.  

 
Don’t add any oil to the water!  This is a kitchen myth that persists.  There is a belief that if you add oil, it will keep the pasta from sticking together.  The truth is, if you use a pot that is the correct size and enough water, the pasta shouldn’t stick together.  Adding oil to the water will only make the pasta oily, keeping any sauces from sticking to it.  

 
Bring water to boil on high heat with the stockpot lid on.

 
Add pasta to boiling water and turn down heat to medium-high so it doesn’t boil over. It should still be a gentle boil.  Stir pasta to separate it.  If you’re making long pasta, such as spaghetti, it will cook down so it’s fully submerged in about 30 seconds.  Cook with the lid off.

 
Using the cooking time on the package as a guideline, set your kitchen timer for 2 minutes less than the recommended time (which is usually between 9 and 13 minutes). Test a piece of pasta at this point. Properly cooked pasta is called al dente, which is Italian for ‘to the tooth’.  This means that the pasta has a little bit of a bite in the middle of it.  It’s not crunchy but it’s not completely limp and soggy either.  If it is not ready, cook for another minute and test again.  Cook until desired tenderness.

 
Once pasta is ready, carefully scoop out about 1/4 cup of the cooking water and set aside.  Add a cup of cold water to the pasta pot to stop the water from boiling and turn off heat.

 
Carefully drain pasta into a strainer in the sink.  Do not rinse!  (Note: if you are making a cold pasta salad, it’s ok to rinse the pasta to stop the cooking and cool the pasta for dressing).

 

In a separate pan, heat your sauce.  Add pasta and a few spoonfuls of the pasta cooking water you set aside. The cooking water contains starch and will help pull your sauce together.  Pour pasta into sauce and toss to coat.  Serve immediately. Enjoy!

 





Kitchen Tip of the Week – Stuffing Chicken Breasts

16 09 2008

 

You won't need these anymore when stuffing meat or vegetables!

This week’s tip is a great trick that I use quite often.  When making stuffed chicken breasts or pork tenderloin, I used to use a couple of toothpicks to hold things together. However, there is always the danger that you might forget to remove them all or that the toothpick will leave little wood splinters in your dish. The last thing you want is for your dinner guests to injure themselves on an errant toothpick! Here is what you can do instead:

Use a piece of dry spaghetti in place of toothpicks.

Dry spaghetti works as a perfect substitute for toothpicks.  It’s sturdy enough to hold things together and you can break it into any length you need (do not use thinner pasta, such as angel hair, because it is too brittle).  Use the spaghetti as you would a toothpick and break off any excess so you only use as much as necessary.  The spaghetti will cook with the dish so there is no need to remove anything.  And here’s the surprising part: you will not even notice a small piece of spaghetti in the finished dish (at least I never have!)  

Using dry spaghetti as a toothpick to hold a stuffed chicken breast together

To test out my suggestion, here are a few ideas for stuffing chicken breasts.  You could also use the spaghetti to hold together vegetarian dishes such as stuffed roasted peppers or cabbage.

Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Makes two large chicken breasts (quantities can easily be doubled or tripled)

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Approximately 4 large pieces of saran wrap
  • Meat tenderizing mallet OR heavy bottle, such as a full wine bottle
  • 1 or 2 pieces dry spaghetti
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons neutral oil, such as safflower or canola
  • Filling – see below for suggestions
  1. Trim chicken breasts of any tendons and unwanted fat, particularly on the underside. Trim off the tenderloin – a small flap of flesh on the bottom of the chicken breast. Set aside to cook separately.
  2. Spread two or three sheets of saran on a clean countertop.  Place one chicken breast on saran and lay more saran on top, so it is completely covered.  Pound chicken breast with a meat tenderizer mallet or heavy bottle until breast is thin and of even thickness.   Put flattened breast on a plate and repeat with the second piece of chicken.
  3. Place your choice of filling on chicken breast and roll up tightly.  Secure roll with a piece or two of spaghetti, as needed.  Repeat with other chicken breasts.
  4. Roll chicken breasts in flour, salt and pepper mix.  Saute in a skillet until browned on all sides. Transfer to a pan and bake in oven at 425 F for approximately 20 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink in the middle.
  5. Cut breasts into slices and serve.

Filling Suggestions:

Ham & Cheese – A slice or two of ham with a few slices of your favourite cheese (ham and swiss, ham and brie or ham and cheddar are all good combinations)

Feta and Spinach – Mix a few teaspoons crumbled feta cheese with some sauteed spinach.  

Tomato Mozzarella – Dice some tomatoes and cube a couple of slices of mozzarella.  Add a few torn basil leaves and season with salt and pepper

Mushroom and Rice – Mix some sauteed mushrooms with leftover rice or wild rice mix.  Add some finely chopped herbs (rosemary, sage or thyme are nice).  

Blue Cheeese and Onion – Crumble some blue cheese and mix with some pickled red onion.

Pesto Ricotta – Mix a spoonful of pesto with a scoop of ricotta.

Proscuitto, Mozzarella and Sage – One of my favourite combinations, it’s flavours are similar to a classic Italian dish called saltimbocca.  Layer a couple of prosciutto slices, some torn fresh sage leaves and fresh mozzarella.

Use your imagination – the possibilities are practically endless!

Variations:

  • Serve chicken with your favourite sauce, for example, mushroom cream sauce with ham and cheese or tomato sauce with mozzarella stuffed breasts.
  • Add a glaze to your chicken, such as honey-mustard or balsamic vinegar
  • You could also dip breasts in the following for a cripsy crust: 1) flour, 2) 1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water and 3) seasoned bread crumbs.  Saute in oil and bake in the oven as above.

Bon Appetit and Enjoy!





Kitchen Tip of the Week – How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies

8 09 2008

 

If you have a fruit bowl, you could be at risk for fruit flies!

If you have a fruit bowl, you could be at risk for fruit flies!

 

This week’s kitchen tip is not quite as appetizing as previous tips but it’s no less useful. Today I’m going to share with you my trick for getting rid of fruit flies.  Fruit flies are mysterious creatures – I never see them until there is older fruit around and then they multiply like crazy.  Where do they come from?  Are they hiding behind the fridge, waiting for fruit?   It’s as though the materialize right out of the fruit.  Anyway, I was away over the weekend and left some plums out in a bowl on the counter so now I have to get rid of them.  There are many different ways to do this but this is the technique that has worked for me:

How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies

1.  The first and most important step is to get rid of the offending fruit. They are attracted to old fruit and fruit juices, including alcohol. Refrigerate or throw out (if it’s past its prime) any fruit you have on the counter. Wash counters to make sure there is no sticky residue from fruit or spilled drinks. If you have a recycling bin in your house, make sure all bottles and cans are rinsed out before putting them in the bin so you don’t attract any unwanted pests.

2.  Make a fruit fly trap:  Pour about half a cup of orange juice into the bottom of a small bowl.  Cover bowl tightly with saran wrap.  Poke some holes in the saran.  Leave out on the counter for a couple of days.  The flies will be attracted to the fruit juice but will get trapped under the plastic.  Within a short time, you should be able to get rid of them all.   

 

A easy way to get rid of fruit flies

An easy way to get rid of fruit flies

 

With all the fruit and berries that are in season now, you’re bound encounter a few flies. Yes, the whole thing is a bit disgusting but fruit flies are a fact of life and now you know how to deal with them.  Next week, I’ll return to showing you something delicious instead of pest control pointers!





Kitchen Tip of the Week – How to Peel Tomatoes (and Soft Fruit)

3 09 2008

 

It’s prime tomato season right now so many people are interested in canning them or making batches of sauce to preserve through the winter.  This method can also be used to peel soft fruit, such as peaches or plums.   

How to Peel Tomatoes (or soft fruit)

You’ll need:

  • Tomatoes or other soft fruit such as peaches or plums
  • A large bowl filled with ice water
  • A large stockpot, filled with water and brought to a boil
  • A sharp knife
  • A slotted spoon or colander

 

 

1. Cut an 'X' in the bottom of each tomato with a sharp knife, making sure you cut all the way through the skin
1. Cut an ‘X’ in the bottom of each tomato with a sharp knife, making sure you cut all the way through the skin

 

 

Place tomatoes in pot of boiling water for 40 seconds
2. Place tomatoes in pot of boiling water for approximately 40 seconds

 

 

3. Using a slotted spoon, remove tomatoes from boiling water and place them immediately into ice water
3. Using a slotted spoon, remove tomatoes from boiling water and place them immediately in ice water

 

 

4. Peel skin from the bottom of the tomato - it should pull off without any trouble
4. Peel skin from the bottom of the tomato – it should pull off without any trouble

 

 

5. Cut tomatoes in half.  Scoop out the seeds trim the stem end.  Your tomatoes are now ready to use!
5. Cut tomatoes in half. Scoop out the seeds trim the stem end. Your tomatoes are now ready to use!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





Kitchen Tip of the Week – How to Remove an Avocado Pit

26 08 2008

This week I’m going to demonstrate how to pit an avocado.  Avocados make a great accompaniment to Mexican and Latin inspired dishes which are perfect for summer meals.  I also enjoy sliced avocado in salads or sandwiches.  As a bonus, I have included a recipe for guacamole.  Pour yourself a margarita, whip up some guacamole and enjoy with your favourite corn chips!

How to Remove an Avocado Pit

1. Slice avocado lengthwise all the way around, cutting through to the pit

 

2. Twist the two halves and gently pull apart

 

3. Using a very sharp, large knife, carefully sink blade into the pit (you can also pry the pit out with a spoon)

 

4. Twist knife and pull pit out

 

5. Et voila - you are now ready to scoop out the avocado flesh or cut it into a dice

 

Guacamole is traditionally made in a molcajete – a large stone bowl with a stone masher that looks like a mortar and pestle set.  However, it is certainly not nessecary to make decent guacamole and you can easily make it in a bowl by mashing the avocado with a fork.  Haas avocados are the most readily available variety. Look for ones that are very dark green (almost black) and soft to the touch so they mash easily.

Guacamole

 Makes about 1 cup – can easily be doubled

(VEGETARIAN)

  • 1 very ripe Haas avocado, pitted (see above)
  • 1 Tablespoon finely diced onion
  • 1/3 cup diced tomato (about 1 small tomato)
  • 1/4 hot sauce such as Tabasco (or more, to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 garlic clove, finely minced – optional (purists would probably not use garlic but I like it)
  • Optional: you can add a bit of chopped fresh cilantro but I usually leave it out because a lot of people dislike the flavour of cilantro!
  1. Pit avocado as detailed above.  Spoon the flesh out of each half into a medium sized bowl.
  2. Lightly mash the avocado with a fork.  Add remaining ingredients and continue to mash the mixture until everything is combined and it is the desired consistency (some people like it very smooth while others prefer it a bit chunky).  
  3. Adjust seasonings to taste and serve with your favourite dishes.

 

Bon Appetit and Enjoy!

 

Guacamole, served in a molcajete

Guacamole, served in a molcajete





Kitchen Tip of the Week – How to Chop Fresh Herbs

18 08 2008

Starting today, each week I’m going to pass along some of my favourite kitchen tips, from chopping fresh herbs to removing the casing from sausage.  Enjoy!

Chopping Leafy Fresh Herbs

When chopping leafy fresh herbs such as basil or sage, take all of the leaves and stack them together.  Roll the leaves up tightly, as though rolling a cigar.  Place on the cutting board and slice thinly.  Chop up the slices to the size required.  This technique is called chiffonade.






Asparagus Soup

1 06 2008

Asparagus is without a doubt one of my favourite vegetables.  So you can imagine how pleased I am that we’re in the heart of asparagus season and locally grown stalks are available everywhere.   They make an excellent accompaniment to grilled or roasted meats, as the basis for a salad or stir fry or are delicious just on their own!  To get the asparagus season started, here is a simple asparagus soup that makes a nice lunch with a light sandwich or is great way to begin a spring-inspired dinner.

Asparagus Soup

Makes four 1-cup servings

(Can be made VEGETARIAN)

  • 1 Tablespoon neutral oil, such as safflower or canola
  • 3 leeks
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 bunch (approx. 12 oz or 2 cups chopped) asparagus, woody ends discarded and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 medium russet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2″ dice
  • 3 cups chicken OR vegetable stock (homemade or canned, try to use low-sodium stock)
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half (see ‘Helpful Tips’ at the bottom for further suggestions)
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  1. Place leeks on a cutting board.  Cut off and discard green leaves and root ends, leaving just the white bulbs.  Slice the bulbs lengthwise down the middle.  Rinse well under running water, making sure to clean out all the layers.  Return to cutting board and lay the flat side down.  Cut into ‘rings’, approximately 3/4″ thick.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat oil on medium-high.  Add leeks and garlic and saute until the leeks are soft and just begining to brown, approximately 4 minutes (be careful they don’t start to burn!)
  3. Add asparagus pieces, potato and stock to pot.  Cover and simmer on medium heat until asparagus and potatoes are tender, approximately 15 minutes.
  4. Once vegetables are tender, remove from heat and reserve a few of the tips for garnish.  Carefully puree vegetable mixture with an immersable hand blender or in a blender until smooth.
  5. Return puree to saucpan and add half-and-half.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish servings with reserved asparagus tips.

Helpful Tips:

  • The soup can be made in advance and re-heated for service, making an excellent starter course for a spring dinner party
  • Be careful not to overcook the asparagus – it will start to become an unappetizing colour!
  • When pureeing soup, be careful not to fill the blender too full.  You may have to puree the soup in batches
  • As a healthier alternative, you can substitute low-fat canned evaporated milk for the half-and-half.  It won’t be quite as good though!  Or, you could make it extra decadent by using whipping cream (35%) to produce a rich, silky soup.

Asparagus Soup