Cream of Asparagus Soup

asparagus soupAbout a gabillion years ago (okay, maybe closer to 10) I worked in a coffee house. We baristas also served food, things like toasted bagels and cream cheese, blueberry granola, and soup. I fell in love with the cream of asparagus soup we served. It was an interpretation of the Moosewood Cookbook recipe and was made in large batches by my boss. This was my first introduction to, “Hey, vegetables can taste amazing as soup!” Before that, I was mostly about salads, and as a starving college student, I honestly saw most veggies as something above my income level.

But here we were. This soup was amazing, and I wanted more! I had graduated from college (again) and was working two jobs, one at the coffee shop and one at a grocery store. Not only was I able to afford creating something I considered fancy, I worked at a place where I could get part of it for free. The perks of working in grocery mean that you never starve. Keep that in mind, college students! I got a bunch of asparagus that was too old and ugly for the buying public, as well as an onion that had seen better days, and was on my way to making my first batch. Full disclosure — this soup was part of the first meal I ever made for Charles, and my first attempt at making it, so it has a very special place in my cook’s heart.

These days, I only work in grocery, and my position is a bit higher up the ladder. The coffee shop, though I still miss being a barista, is long gone. While the shop may be a thing of the past, I continue to think this soup is all that. It’s tasty and filling, and it’s a great first course or even a good meal, depending on how hungry you are. Serve it with a Sauvignon Blanc, though in my opinion, it’s best to stay away from the gooseberry characteristics of a New Zealand style. Oh, and even though I no longer take advantage of the free for staff as often as I used to, that doesn’t mean I’m not still frugal. This batch was made with the leftover asparagus after my naan pizza creation. The best way to save money when buying food is to eat all of it.

Cream of Asparagus

Serves 4-6

2 cups stock
1 onion, chopped
6 Tablespoons of butter
6 Tablespoons of flour
1 teaspoon dill weed
1 bunch of fresh asparagus, chopped
4 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
pinch of white pepper

In a pot over medium heat, cook asparagus with onions and butter.
When the onions are clear, about eight minutes or so, sprinkle in the flour.
Lower the heat to low and continue to cook for five to eight more minutes, stirring often.
Add stock, salt, dill, and white pepper and cook about ten more minutes or until thickened, stirring frequently.
Puree the mixture bit by bit with the milk in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth.
Return soup to low heat until it begins to bubble.

Lemon Rosemary Cornish Game Hens

Cornish Game HenSome weeks are so full of so many tasks, when everything finally winds down, a little comfort food is in order. While baked chicken is always a winner, I wanted to change things up a bit, do something more individualized. I’ve always wanted to cook Cornish game hens. They’re so small yet fancy. When served with roasted carrots and an Anderson Valley wine, our cares just slipped away.

We paired our hens with 2012 Husch Renegade Sauvignon Blanc. The way the wine picked up the rosemary in the bird was dynamite! I savored every mouthful.

Lemon Rosemary Cornish Game Hens

Serves 4

2 Cornish game hens
salt and pepper to taste
1 lemon, cut in half
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
extra virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves, peeled
1/3 cup white wine
1/3 cup chicken broth (I just used some broth I had frozen in ice cube trays and scattered the cubes around the pan.)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Season birds, inside and out, with salt and pepper. Squeeze juice from half a lemon into the cavity of each bird, then place the half inside the cavity. Place the rosemary sprigs inside of each bird. Rub hens with olive oil and place them on a rack inside a roasting pan. Place garlic around birds.
Roast for 25 minutes then lower oven to 350 degrees. Pour the wine and broth into the pan and roast about 30 minutes more or until the birds are golden brown and the legs begin to fall away from the body.
Cut hens in half and serve.

A Chilled Soup for a Hot Day

Chilled Potato and Asparagus SoupThe West is really warming up. There are places already experiencing 100 degree F days, and it’s not even June!

It may be heating up, but that doesn’t mean the time for soup is over. There are tomato gazpachos, fruit soups, and more. Since it’s not so hot — yet — that no one even feels like eating, a heartier chilled soup seemed in order. Inspired by Cowgirl Creamery‘s amazing Spring Garlic and Asparagus Soup, I made a version that incorporated my seasonal farm share from Pennyroyal Farmstead. This thick, creamy, and decadent meal paired perfectly with a slightly creamy Sauvignon Blanc, Husch’s “The Press,” a secondary label they created for the 2012 vintage. 2012 was a wonderful year with an amazing yield. Its grassy, citrus nose and lemon custard in the glass paired — as I said before — perfectly with the asparagus and goat cheese in the soup.

Creamy Potato and Asparagus Chilled Soup

serves 4

1 small bulb of green garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon salted butter
1 large and 1 medium Yukon Gold potato, peeled and chopped
1 sweet yellow onion, chopped
3 cups chicken stock
approximately 1/2 cup crème fraîche
12 asparagus spears, chopped
1 cup Chive Flower Laychee (or you could use ricotta)
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper

Over medium heat, melt butter in a soup pot. Toss in garlic, potatoes, and onion and stir. Cover with a lid and cook for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are soft. Add stock and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer for ten minutes. Turn off heat and stir in crème fraîche.
In a large bowl, create an ice bath with ice and water, setting a slightly smaller bowl inside.
In one cup increments, purée the soup in a food processor or blender. Pour into the bowl inside the ice bath. Place into the refrigerator and wait for soup to chill.
In the same soup pot, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Throw in asparagus and cook until it becomes bright green but is still just a bit crunchy. Drain and dry in paper towels.
This is my favorite tip from Cowgirl Creamery — instead of blanching the asparagus, toss it with olive oil and the salt and pepper. The asparagus absorbs more flavor while it’s still warm. I found this to be quite true! Put asparagus in a container and place in the fridge until ready to add to the soup.
When soup is chilled, pour into four bowls. Stir in asparagus, reserving tips for garnish. Dollop in small spoonfuls of Laychee. Garnish with asparagus tips and serve.

Smoky Times Call for Smoky Measures

prawnsSmoke. Fumé. Humo. Rauchen. Deatach. Ysmygu. We’re surrounded by smoke in my neck of the woods from two separate fires. It’s all we’ve talked about at work this week. It’s at the forefront of our thoughts, as our lungs won’t allow us to forget.

Since playing with words is one of my pastimes, and wine is my passion, it’s no surprise that the constant swirling of my atmosphere made me think of Fumé Blanc.

Robert Mondavi invented the term for his Sauvignon Blanc styled after the Pouilly-Fumé wine of the Loire Valley. Choosing the new moniker helped to differentiate his drier style from the sweeter Sauvignon Blancs of the late 1960s. And the rest, as you well know, is history.

Those aren't clouds in the background. It's smoke.

Those aren’t clouds in the background. It’s smoke.

I landed on Murphy-Goode’s The Fumé. It was staring out at me from the shelf in quite an alluring fashion. I then read the label’s pairing suggestions and decided that coconut prawns would be the correct choice of cuisine.

It was a delightful decision. The tropical notes of mango in the wine married nicely to the coconut batter of the prawns. The creaminess of the Fumé went hand-in-hand with the richness of the shrimp, and the sprinkling of lime that the dish received after cooking brought out key lime pie characteristics in the glass. Smoky, silky, with hints of melon — to sum up the wine succinctly, well, it was yummy, and it made for a damn good(e) dinner.

Coconut Prawns

Organic canola oil for frying
1/4 cup Kinnikinnick gluten-free bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
drizzle of sriracha
1 lime
1 cup shredded coconut
2 egg whites
1 pound prawns, deveined and peeled

Heat two inches of oil over medium high heat.
Combine bread crumbs with coconut and mix thoroughly.
Salt prawns. Add sriracha and mix until coated.
Lightly beat the egg whites. Dip prawns in the egg, coat with the coconut mixture, and drop into the hot oil.
Flip prawns over when the batter has turned a dark, golden brown.
Serve with lime wedges and the ever-so-awesome Murphy-Goode The Fumé.

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