Who can resist a perfectly poached egg? It can hold its own, complete with its own sauce, but paired with a creamy asparagus soup it becomes a perfect spring meal. Nutrient dense and low in fat, asparagus is a versatile vegetable that can be prepared in a number of ways. The end of the stalk is known to be woody and inedible, but using it to make a soup base enhances the asparagus flavor while utilizing the whole vegetable. The tips contain most of the phytonutrients and by quickly blanching them and using as a garnish, the benefits will be preserved while adding texture and crunch to the soup. Want to make it vegan? All you have to do is omit the parmesan cheese on the croutons and leave out the egg!
Prep time: 40 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
INGREDIENTS - SOUP
2 pounds of asparagus, chopped
2 leeks, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups spinach
2 ounces olive oil
1 lemon, zested and then sliced
1/4 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs thyme
4 cups water
INGREDIENTS – POACHED EGGS
8 cups water
2 Tablespoons white vinegar or lemon juice
INGREDIENTS – GARLIC PARMESAN CROUTONS
1 small loaf of ciabatta bread, cut in 1/2 inch cubes
4 ounces olive oil
10 whole cloves of garlic
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Remove stems from asparagus by snapping the stalk at its breaking point. Cut the tips off on the bias and reserve. Place woody stalks in a saucepan and cover with water. Clean the leeks and separate the whites from the green leaves, place the leek greens in the pan with the asparagus stalks. Add lemon slice, peppercorns, bay leaf and thyme sprigs, simmer on medium heat for 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, it’s time to make the Garlic Parmesan Croutons...
Place all the cloves of garlic into a small saucepan. Pour olive oil into saucepan and cover garlic cloves completely. Slowly cook on medium heat until the cloves turn light golden brown. Remove from heat and allow garlic to mingle with the oil for about a half hour. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. If the cloves are getting too dark remove from oil, garlic becomes bitter if it becomes too brown. At this point, the garlic cloves can be removed and reserved for another use. Cut ciabatta into 1/2 inch cubes and toss with the garlic oil, salt and pepper. Place on a parchment lined rimmed baking sheet pan and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden in color. Remove from baking sheet and place into a large mixing bowl while still hot. Toss with parmesan and adjust seasoning as needed. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
Back to the soup
In a saucepan bring some water and salt to a boil and blanch asparagus tips for 2 minutes. Remove from boiling water and stop the cooking process by plunging into ice water. Blot dry, slice in half lengthwise and reserve for garnish. Chop the remaining asparagus, the leek whites, shallots and garlic. Heat olive oil in a medium stock pot and add the leeks and shallots, cook until translucent. Add asparagus and cook until it starts to become soft, add garlic and cook for another minute. Strain the asparagus stock into the sautéed vegetables and simmer for about 25 minutes.
While that is simmering, in a deep sauté pan or saucepan add water and vinegar or lemon juice, bring to the simmer. Crack egg into a small bowl or ramekin, swirl the simmering water with a spoon and gently slip the egg into the center and coax the egg white around the yolk. Once the whites start to set, turn down heat and cover for 3 - 4 minutes. Remove from water with slotted spoon and place on paper towel, trim off excess stringy whites. At this point they can be held in ice water and reheated as needed in simmering water for 1 minute.
Add spinach to soup and cook for one more minute, remove soup from heat and place solids along with lemon zest, salt and pepper in blender. Blitz until smooth adding the stock as needed to thin. Add liquid in small amounts to avoid thinning the soup out too much, adjust seasoning to taste.
Pour soup into individual bowls, add croutons, warm poached egg and garnish with asparagus tips. Serves 4.