In the spring, I seek out asparagus. I look for solid, stately bundles wrapped with string, sitting in neat rows, perched atop crushed ice. I buy the very thin asparagus because they remind me so much of the slender ones of Umbria. When I get my bundle home, I make this quick and creamy soup, using the cooking water from the asparagus.
1 1/4 pounds asparagus
2 cups water
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
3 large shallots, diced
1/4 cup light cream
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
Cut off the tough ends of the asparagus and discard. Place the asparagus in a sauté pan with the water. Cover the pot, bring the asparagus to a gentle boil, and cook for 3 or 4 minutes (depending on size), just until a knife easily pierces the stem end.
Drain the asparagus in a colander over a bowl, reserving the cooking water. When cool, cut the asparagus into 1-inch pieces. Dice some of the pieces to equal ½ cup and set aside.
In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook slowly until they begin to soften. Add all the asparagus except the ½ cup, and continue to cook for about 4 minutes, or until the asparagus is very soft.
Transfer the mixture to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Return the mixture to the saucepan, add 1 1/2 cups of the reserved cooking water, cream, and salt. Cook slowly, stirring with a wooden spoon to blend the ingredients. Add the reserved diced asparagus. If the mixture appears too thick, add a bit more of the cooking water. Serve immediately.
Note: Sometimes I add diced prosciutto, sautéed in butter until crisp, as a garnish.
This recipe is from NELLA CUCINA by Mary Ann Esposito, published by William Morrow and Company, Inc., in 1993.
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