The recipe I’m posting today goes out by request: Roasted Asparagus Soup with Sun-Dried Tomatoes. I had intended to test this again before sharing, but it was delicious, and asparagus season is upon us, so why wait? There are a couple things that make this soup good, in my opinion: first, the sun-dried tomato and Parmesan add so much flavor. Even if you’re an asparagus skeptic, I’m confident you will find something to love about this soup. I made an asparagus soup last spring, and I thought it was pretty good, but then my dad made this soup, and it was about a million times better than mine. I also think that the roasting helps to concentrate the flavors of the asparagus. It may seem superfluous to cook the asparagus in the oven and then put it in a pot and simmer it, but I’m telling you, the soup I made without the roasting was totally lackluster in comparison.
It’s really not as much work as it sounds, either. I just snapped off the asparagus’ tough ends, tossed the spears on a baking sheet with olive oil (not extra virgin, it smokes too much at high heat) and salt, and stuck them in the oven. While they got all delicious in there (Seriously, if you’ve never had asparagus roasted like this, stop right there and eat the cooked asparagus as is, next to a steak and some mashed potatoes. You can add freshly ground pepper, a squirt of fresh lemon juice and maybe some zest, a grating of Parmesan—any or all of these are good, but the simple oil and salt version is the one I remember eating at home, made by my dad, with spears cut fresh from the garden.) I chopped and prepped the other ingredients, all the while keeping an eye on William and his friend playing.
The beauty of roasting the asparagus is that you don’t have to keep an eye on it and time it carefully on the stove. You don’t even have to proceed with the recipe right away after the roasting step. (In fact, it is probably better for your fingers if you let the asparagus spears cool a little before chopping them.) Doing it this way allows flexibility, perfect if you have little ones around. And it’s the best way to cook the asparagus tips that you’re going to want to reserve and add to the top when you serve it.
Unfortunately, I think the double-cooking doesn’t do much for the looks of this soup. It looks like a puree of brown-green overcooked vegetables, the crayon color I used to call in elementary school “booger,” which now I actually find quite pretty but does not appeal to most people as something they want ladled into a large bowl to eat with a spoon. (Actually my favorite color currently is what I like to call “fluorescent booger,” or chartreuse, or ochre if you prefer.) Once you dish it up and add the sun-dried tomato, reserved asparagus tips, and shaved Parmesan, it looks quite beautiful—really! For this reason I was going to suggest this as a nice thing to serve to company, but I couldn’t figure out how exactly that would work, because while it would be nice to let everyone add their own garnishes, I can’t imagine placing a bowl of it unadorned in front of my guest and making them try to hide their disappointment. Oh, I know what you could do: you could serve each bowl with a bit of each garnish on top, but also put out small bowls on the table so people could add more tomato, asparagus, or cheese to suit their taste. Yes, that’s what you could do. I imagine this would also be a good way to make it look appetizing to less adventurous eaters in your family, and if that’s not enough, to add a “fun factor” of being able to sprinkle things into their soup.
Also, Sam and I both thought this would have been excellent with some good bread (I’d pick up a baguette from Panera) and extra virgin olive oil for dipping. I didn’t do that—I never think of bread for our weeknight meals—but I highly suggest it. If you make it the way I did, you’ll want that bread for substance too, because the original soup recipe only made enough for us all to be just satisfied for supper, with one serving for leftovers (which Sam took to work for lunch, and then called me to say that a couple coworkers wanted the recipe, so that’s why I’m sharing it here. Thanks for boosting my self-esteem, Rachel and Liz! ) It was so good that I would have appreciated more leftovers. In the recipe below, I’ll note my suggestions on how to remedy that, aside from just doubling it. However you decide to make and serve it, I hope you enjoy!
Roasted Asparagus Soup with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Adapted from my dad, who adapted it from Robin Miller
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil (not extra virgin)
- 2 pounds asparagus (The original recipe called for 4 cups of roasted asparagus. I used 1 pound, which yielded about 1 ½-2 cups when roasted and chopped. I would guess that 2 pounds should get you closer to the intended amount, and would also likely help the color issues I mentioned in the post. This should also boost the amount to a good, filling 4 servings.)
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 baking potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (I used a Russet, my dad did an unpeeled red potato—the red skin doesn’t seem out of place, with the sun-dried tomatoes and all—you’re just looking for a size/amount akin to what you’d want for a baked potato)
- 6 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
- ½-3/4 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, julienned or diced (the ones I purchased came julienned—and to be honest, there’s no need to measure this, just dish some into a small serving bowl, leaving most of the oil behind—the measurement is included here so you can have an idea of whether you can use up a jar or if you need to go to the store)
- Parmesan, shaved with a vegetable peeler into thin strips (again, no set amount here, but I would go with 5-8 per bowl)
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Wash and dry your asparagus (by lining up the spears on a length of paper towels and rolling it up—wet veggies don’t roast well) and snap off the tough ends. On a baking sheet large enough to hold asparagus in one layer, toss asparagus with a light drizzle (1-2 tablespoons) of olive oil and a pinch or two of kosher salt. Place baking sheet in the oven and roast until asparagus is crisp-tender and browned in spots, 5-10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, chop into pieces roughly ½ inch big, reserving tips.
- Heat another tablespoon of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until soft, 2-4 minutes. Add bay leaves and thyme and cook for 1 minute, or until fragrant. Add chopped asparagus, potato, and broth and adjust heat in order to bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium, partially cover, and simmer for 10 minutes, or until potato is fork-tender.
- Remove bay leaves, and use an immersion blender to puree soup until smooth. You may also use a regular blender, but please be aware of the dangers of hot soup exploding out of your blender, and read up on how to do this safely. I cannot be held responsible if you burn yourself, but I will feel really bad.
- Reheat soup if needed before serving, and garnish each bowl with sun-dried tomatoes, reserved asparagus tips, and shaved Parmesan. You may wish to pass additional tomatoes, asparagus, and Parmesan at the table.