Monday, April 21, 2008

Asparagus Soup and Reuben Soup

Hello dear ones. Oh GoodGoddessAlmighty I’ve been a lazy Mary. Life throws us all a few curves from time to time, and I’ve been swinging far and wide to keep up to tempo. Forgive me and let’s dive back in to some intriguing ideas about food, feeding and fun stuff.

You all know how easily thrilled I am by wringing multiple meals from singular shopping and cooking endeavors. So it’s understandable that recent refrigerator reviews led me to some rewarding market basket experimentation. One was a work related inheritance of asparagus trimmings, the other a typical leftover layover. Either way, the message behind my words is “Think before you trash it.” There’s a long history of savoring more from what we see as less, and that’s a tradition we need to reinvest in; not only as a recession response, but as a sign of respect to all that Momma Earth provides.

Along with daffodils, robins and wide open windows, the return of sweet, fresh local asparagus is one of the welcome signs of spring around our home. I tend toward abusing my relationship with these crisp green stalks by popping them into our meals 2 or 3 times a week when the price makes it too seductive to avoid. If you share a similar April frenzy, then you won’t have any problem saving up enough trimmings to try this idea for asparagus soup. I find the trimmed ends of the stalks keep several days in the refrigerator if wrapped in damp paper towel and stored in a plastic bag.

Here’s a tip for you when preparing asparagus. To determine where the tender part of the stalk begins to shift to a tougher woody texture – Hold an asparagus stalk with the tip in one hand and the base of the stalk in the other. Gently bend the asparagus until it snaps in two. Most likely this is where the tender part shifts to a tougher texture. After snapping a few, you can cut the rest of the bunch using the snapped stalks as a guide.

Asparagus Soup
Serves 2 or 3

I like this version without any additional milk or cream. It’s a more intense hit of asparagus. But feel free to spoil yourself with a splash of cream if you’re feeling the need to be indulgent.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove fresh garlic, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 pound asparagus stems & peelings
3 cups (approx) vegetable broth or chicken stock – canned low sodium is fine in a pinch
1 small (3 oz) Yukon Gold potato (or russet), peeled and cut in half
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
salt & pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon chives, parsley or tarragon, chopped

Heat a 2 quart pan over medium flame. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion softens and begins to turn translucent. The onions should not take on any color. Stir in the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the asparagus trim and sauté for another minute or so. Drop in the potato and add enough broth to just barely cover the asparagus. Bring the soup to a boil, and then lower heat o maintain an easy going simmer. Don’t cover the pot as this will unnecessarily grey out the asparagus. Cook until the potato and the asparagus as extremely tender. Drain the vegetables reserving the liquid, and let cool.
When the soup solids are cool, transfer part of them to a blender. Puree the vegetable mixture, adding the soup liquid as you go to get as smooth a mixture as possible. Pour the puree into a medium fine sieve set over a bowl. Using a large ladle push the soup through the sieve, and throw out the solids left in the sieve. Repeat the process until all the soup solids have been strained. If there is any more liquid remaining, pour that through the sieve into the finished soup.
Rewarm the soup when ready to serve and adjust seasonings. Garnish with chopped fresh herbs.

Clearly a product of some retro thinking after our St. Patrick’s Day meal, I was inspired by the Handsome Venezuelan as he returned several times to refresh his bowl of Corned Beef & Cabbage with more broth. Later that week when faced with some leftover corned beef I remembered how meaty and clean tasting the broth was. Forgoing my initial plan for Reuben Sandwiches, I came up with the following alternative.

Initially I tried using the rye bread and cheese as croutons in the style of French Onion Soup, but the result was way too much busyness in the bowl. Not wanting to sacrifice any chance to indulge in warm melted cheese though, I suggest serving them on the side.

Reuben Soup with Cheesy Rye Toasts
Serves 3- 4

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 cup green cabbage, roughly cut
1 bay leaf
1 medium plum tomato, peeled, seeded &diced (or ½ cup canned diced tomato)
¼ cup sauerkraut, rinsed and squeezed dry
1 quart reserved corned beef cooking broth, fat removed
1 cup corned beef, rough cut
2 slices rye bread, cut in half
2 teaspoons olive oil
2/3 cup swiss or gruyere cheese, shredded

Heat a 2 quart or larger pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and then the onions. Cook the onions, stirring often until they begin to soften. Add the cabbage and continue to sauté with the onions for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the bay leaf, tomato, sauerkraut and broth and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until cabbage is well cooked. Add the corned beef and continue to simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and check seasonings.
When ready to serve, preheat an oven to 375*. Brush rye bread with olive oil and place on a small sheet pan. Place in oven and toast the bread for 6 minutes. Turn slices of bread over and top with grated cheese. Return to oven until cheese is melted and bubbly.
Serve with hot Reuben Soup.

So there you have it favored readers; a small, but well meaning reward for your patience. And a promise to shape up and get more words onto Word documents and stuffed into the Blogosphere. I can’t afford to have you abandon Big Mary for a more punctual food maven!

Wishing you indulgent cravings.