Make it Local: Cream of asparagus soup

Cream of asparagus soup

After our long and very cold winter, I can think of many good reasons to be excited for spring, but one in particular comes to mind: fresh asparagus is almost here. When I first see those crisp green stalks for sale at the local farmers markets, I know spring is here to stay. I have remind myself to exercise some restraint and only buy one or two bunches at a time; after such a long hiatus, I tend to forget that I can always buy more the next week. And the week after that. And the week after that. 


I grew up eating asparagus simply boiled, but in recent years, I've switched things up a bit. Nowadays, I lean toward roasting, grilling, sautéing, or making a rich, flavorful soup. Fortunately, it's not difficult to source as locally as possible, too.



Asparagus: Check out farmers markets in May, and you'll likely find some organic, locally grown options. Or stop into Mississippi Market co-op for asparagus from Wheatfield Hill Organics or Keewaydin Farms. At the markets or the co-ops, you can also find choices for local onions, leeks, and garlic for the soup, too.


Butter: Try the hand-rolled butter from Rochdale Farms, a food cooperative comprised of small-scale farmers. For the particularly ambitious, you could even make your own, as covered in a recent Kitchen DIY article on cultured butter.


Heavy cream: It's tough to beat local Cedar Summit Dairy for this one, since they have 100 percent grass-fed products that are pretty widely available. 


Flour: Instead of the commercial stuff, give a local small producer a try: Sunrise Flour Mill. The company's Turkey Red Heritage refined wheat flour is a nice all-purpose choice. Plus, although it contains gluten, it's a type that many people with gluten intolerance tend to find more digestible.


Wine: Minnesota vineyards have been gaining a bigger foothold in the wine market in the past few years, so there are likely to be at least a few local options at liquor stores, particularly if you go to a place like France 44 or Solo Vino. Options include Cannon River Winery's St. Pepin white, La Crescent from Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery, or a selection from Glacial Ridge Winery.



Cream of Asparagus Soup

1 lb fresh asparagus (use thicker stalks: they have better flavor than thinner ones)

1 1/2 T unsalted butter, divided

1 white onion, diced

2 leeks, white and the soft light green parts only, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 bay leaf

1/3 C white wine

2 C vegetable stock

1/3 C heavy cream 

2 T flour

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/4 C slivered almonds, toasted


Prepare the garnish:

Toast almonds until golden brown: either put them in a single layer in a sauté pan over medium heat, or place them on a sheet pan in a 375 degree oven for about three minutes. Cut the tips of the asparagus and blanch them in boiling water for 3 minutes. Cool them in ice water, drain and set aside.


Make the soup:

In a large saucepan, melt one tablespoon of butter and sauté onion, leeks, and garlic until soft and translucent (about 5 minutes). Add bay leaf, white wine and asparagus. Simmer over medium heat until wine is reduced by half. Add stock and simmer for 10 to 20 minutes, about half covered. Add the cream and remove the bay leaf. Using a hand mixer or blender, puree the ingredients until smooth.


In a small bowl, mix remaining butter (at room temperature) with flour until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir this mixture into the soup. Simmer for 10 minutes, allowing soup to thicken. Strain through a coarse sieve or strainer, pressing and scraping with a large spoon. Season with salt and pepper to taste. To serve, ladle into warm bowls and garnish with asparagus tips and slivered almonds.



Diane Fluin is a Twin Cities-based freelance writer/editor and a self-proclaimed foodie. For more than two years, she has been documenting her culinary exploits on Diane’s Food Blog, which is geared toward less-experienced home cooks as well as seasoned chefs. The blog entices readers with interesting recipes, appealing photos, and step-by-step details that bring each recipe to life.