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Chilled asparagus soup an elegantly cool dish

Recipe: Spring asparagus blends well with green garlic

Serve the soup chilled but not ice-cold for best flavor. Top with crème fraîche, chopped chives and a blanched asparagus top.

Serve the soup chilled but not ice-cold for best flavor. Top with crème fraîche, chopped chives and a blanched asparagus top. Kathy Morrison

When the weather heats up, thoughts turn to chilled food.

Asparagus fan
Choose thinner asparagus for the soup.

This recipe uses the tender asparagus that is still in season, plus green garlic (immature garlic that's been thinned) and garlic scapes, which are the pre-bloom garlic flower stems. Regular garlic cloves can substitute for green garlic and scapes. A couple of small yellow potatoes cook along with the aromatics, giving the soup a creamy structure without the use of cream or other dairy. 

However, a dollop of crème fraîche makes a lovely garnish, if you're so inclined. (Add some chopped chives and a thin asparagus spear for a dressier serving.)

The soup goes together quickly, but do allow time for it to cool to room temperature before blending -- much safer that way. The chill time is 3 hours or more, but you can speed that up by putting the soup and/or the serving bowls in the freezer for a short time. (Don't freeze it solid!)

Chilled asparagus soup

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large sweet onion,  white or yellow

Garlic, green garlic and garlic scape
A garlic scape (blossom stem) wraps around
green garlic and a standard head of garlic.

1 stalk of green garlic plus 4 garlic scapes, chopped, or 3 minced garlic cloves

1 to 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 to 2 small yellow young potatoes, about 4 ounces total, diced (no need to peel)

1 pound asparagus, preferably thin spears, cut into 1-inch lengths

3 to 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

2 to 3 ounces fresh baby spinach, optional

For garnish:

Crème fraîche 

1 small bunch chives, chopped

Instructions:

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Peel the onion, cut it in half and slice thinly. Add onion slices to the pot. Sauté until limp, then add the chopped garlic, the thyme and parsley, and a bit of salt and pepper.

Soup ingredients
The soup ingredients simmer together.

Cook for another  2 to 3 minutes, then add the diced potatoes. Reserve 6 of the thinnest asparagus tops for garnish, and add the rest of the asparagus pieces to the pot. Stir to combine, and pour in 3 cups of the broth. Add a pinch of salt and a grind or two of pepper.

Bring to a boil, then simmer until the potatoes and asparagus pieces are tender, about 10 minutes. 

Remove the pot from the heat and add the lemon juice and a couple handfuls of the baby spinach, if using, stirring until the spinach is limp.

Allow the soup to cool to room temperature, then blend it to a creamy consistency using an immersion blender or, in batches, a standard blender. Add a little more broth if it seems too thick.

Pour the blended soup into a glass or ceramic container (a 2-quart measuring cup is ideal) and chill at least 3 hours. It tastes better cool but not ice-cold.

To prepare the asparagus tops for garnish, place them in a heatproof dish or measuring cup. Pour about 1 cup boiling water over the tops, and let them sit for 15 seconds. Then drain the hot water and immediately pour cold water over the asparagus tops. Drain that and pat them dry.

Chill serving bowls if desired. When ready to serve, ladle the soup into the bowls, and garnish each serving with a large dollop of crème fraîche, a pinch of chopped chives and one of the blanched asparagus tops.

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RECIPE

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Garden Checklist for week of May 19

Temperatures will be a bit higher than normal in the afternoons this week. Take care of chores early in the day – then enjoy the afternoon. It’s time to smell the roses.

* Plant, plant, plant! It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. If you haven’t already, it’s time to set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer bloomers with a balanced fertilizer.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Add mulch to the garden to help keep that precious water from evaporating. Mulch also cuts down on weeds. But don’t let it mound around the stems or trunks of trees or shrubs. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle to avoid crown rot or other problems.

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