Fresh and Simple Inspiration – June 17th, 2008

17 06 2008

As we enjoy the last few days of spring,  here are a few simple ideas you can try with what’s in season right now:

Why don’t you…

-Serve fresh cut-up strawberries mixed with a little sugar (a tablespoon or so) over your favourite ice cream?

-Slice some strawberries to top your favourite cereal?

-Toss some fresh asparagus (trim off woody ends) with a couple of teaspoons of olive oil and roast in the oven (@ 425 degrees for approximately 15 minutes)?  To serve, finish with some salt and pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

-Stir-fry some cut up asparagus in a little bit of oil, a dash of soy sauce, some minced garlic and a spoonful of sesame oil?  Sprinkle with some toasted sesame seeds and serve with your favourite grilled teriyaki meats and some rice.

-Enjoy a nice crisp glass of champagne or sparkling wine with a bowl of fresh ripe strawberries?   It’s a classic pairing.

-Slice some fresh basil leaves into slivers and toss with chunks of fresh mozzarella and a drizzle of good quality balsamic vinegar?  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

 Bon Appetit & Enjoy!

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