Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Freshness, Not Thickness, Matters When Buying Asparagus

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Freshness, Not Thickness, Matters When Buying Asparagus

Article excerpt

When shopping for asparagus, people often focus on the wrong thing how thick the stalks are. They think thinner is better.

Truth is, asparagus can be delicious regardless of how thick it is. More important is how fresh the asparagus is. That's where the flavor is. Freshly harvested asparagus boasts a smooth, firm stalk and a tight tip. When asparagus is past its prime, the stalk starts to wrinkle and the tip begins spreading out like a feather.

But vigilance for freshness doesn't stop at the store. Once you get it home, you need to keep it fresh. The best way to store asparagus is to place the stalks with the ends down in a bit of water in the refrigerator. If you lack that kind of room, at least wrap the bottoms of the stalks in wet paper towels. They should last three or four days this way.

Regardless of how you plan to cook the asparagus, the first step in prepping it is to get rid of the woody part of the stem at the bottom of the stalks, either by breaking or cutting it. But don't toss them out. I used to do this, but I've discovered they have a use. In this soup, I add them to the broth to help infuse it with flavor, then discard them.

If I'm working with asparagus that is more than a 1/3-inch thick, I usually peel the stems to ensure even cooking from the tip to the bottom of the stalk. But we're making soup here, which means we're going to puree the asparagus, so there's no need to peel. In fact, we want those peels. They help to give the soup a bright green color.

Speaking of color, it also helps to barely cook the asparagus before pureeing it, and to reheat it only briefly after it is pureed. In general, the longer a green vegetable cooks, the grayer it becomes.

What makes this soup without cream so creamy? It's the pureed vegetables that do the trick, not only the asparagus, but also the onion and that one lone Yukon Gold potato.

By the way, this soup is equally good hot or cold. It's a spring thing.

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FRESH AND 'CREAMY' ASPARAGUS SOUP WITH TARRAGON

Yield: 4 servings

1 pounds asparagus (about 1 bunches)

1 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

1 cups water

cup extra-virgin olive oil

cup thinly sliced yellow onion

1 small Yukon Gold potato (about 6 ounces), peeled and thinly sliced

teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons lemon juice

Ground black pepper

Chopped fresh tarragon, to serve

Croutons, to serve

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