Ruined Beauty, Repaired

O Asparagus! Who among us has not turned your slender felicities into a soup that was unfabulous

Many of us, I suspect, have made plain old bad asparagus soup. It probably happens with great frequency, but we'll never know since such statistics are rarely reported. 

Because the shame attached to botching a soup--or any dish-- made with such an appealing vegetable, and composed of nothing more than the lissome stalks, broth, salt, pepper, and some dairy, keeps cooks from sharing, and therefore preventing, such unnecessary horrors in the future. 

Here's how you make a creamed soup with just about any vegetable: you saute some onions or leeks, if you like, maybe a bit of garlic,  in some oil or butter; briefly saute the starring vegetable--broccoli, tomatoes, squash, etc; then simmer it all in liquid, usually stock, until tender. You may add a complementary herb. Then you puree, add some salt and pepper and some cream or half and half. What could be bad? 

And yet. . . I did make bad asparagus soup, or, at the very least, soup for which no one requested seconds. 

I'd love to blame it on the asparagus. But they were not old or tough and imperfect. Just look at them. 

During my most recent Saturday trip to Chicago's great Green City Market, there wasn't much else to buy so early in the season, so I came home with way too many of them. Hence the soup, just for variety. 

I'd also love to blame it on the tawdry chicken stock from a box that I used, even though I have frozen vegetable stock in my freezer. But, free will and all.

Why did I do this? Because I wanted immediate gratification; what I got instead was a beautiful looking puree that had a faint underlying flavor of boxed chicken.

But I fixed it rather than wasting, by adding plain nonfat yogurt, a tiny bit of ground cayenne, some more fresh lemon juice, and a little more salt and black pepper. It was delicious cold and hot. This recipe suggests vegetable stock; use chicken stock from a box, if you must, but don't blame me when your delicate soup tastes like poultry. 

Creamy asparagus soup

Serves 6 or so

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 lbs fresh asparagus, trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon, crumbled (optional)
4-5 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup cream
1 1/2 cups plain nonfat yogurt
juice of 1/2  lemon
salt, pepper
pinch of ground cayenne

  1. Saute onion in a large heavy pot over medium heat, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add asparagus pieces and saute, stirring, until they turn bright green. Add tarragon (optional). Add vegetable broth or water, bring to a boil; lower heat to simmer and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. 
  2. Once the mixture has cooled slightly, puree in blender in small batches, being careful not to burn yourself; don't fill the blender, and use a potholder to hold down the lid! Return to pan, add cream, yogurt, lemon juice, salt, pepper and cayenne. Cook slowly over low heat, until heated through. Taste for salt and pepper. 

Note: you can remove some of the asparagus tops after step one, and set aside for garnish if you'd like. Sprinkle on top before serving


  1. Fabulous soup recipe it looks gorgeous and I love the hint of cayenne.

  2. thanks for breaking down the basics on how to make a creamed soup. Believe it or not I had no idea it was that easy. I love that you taught me something that no one has ever explained to me before. So simple and the results can be amazing.

  3. I'm with you—I made a somewhat dissappointing asparagus soup too early in the season, when what I really, really wanted, was something more vivid.