Despite intending to create a certain recipe, sometimes my ingredients tell me how to cook them. Let me explain. Imagine you go to the market with a particular dish in mind, such as a blueberry pie. But when you see the blueberries, they are perfect and sweet, and just too lovely to cook. To boil them and drench them in sugar would be a violation of their pristine nature. So you decide to eat them as snack, or serve them simply in a salad or over yogurt.
This weekend, I was planning to make miniature vegan asparagus soufflés. I had the recipe set in my mind, and imagined puffy golden soufflés peeking out of their ramekins bedecked with delicate asparagus tips. But when I saw the clublike asparagus spears available at the market, I knew their girth was all wrong for such a dish. I shifted my focus to soup.
Searching for an ingredient to minimize the woodiness of the giant asparagus, I arrived at fennel, and decided to roast all the vegetables together, adding a sweet, caramelized flavor to the soup. Fennel is something I’m trying to use more often, either raw and thinly sliced in salads, or roasted alongside other vegetables. I loved how it complimented the asparagus and brightened the flavor of this uncomplicated soup.
This asparagus and fennel soup recipe represents a time of transition. Fennel, in season from autumn to early spring, is a nod to the tail end of winter. The quintessential spring vegetable asparagus reminds us of rebirth and renewal.
[Note: I used my trusty Vitamix to blend all the ingredients at the end, but you can use a hand mixer or immersion blender, if you like.]
- 2 bunches asparagus, chopped in 2-inch pieces
- 1 fennel bulb, chopped in 1-inch pieces
- 1 yellow onion, chopped in 1-inch pieces
- 3 T olive oil
- 4 c vegetable broth or stock
- 1 T fresh lemon juice
- 1 t salt
- freshly ground pepper
- chopped fennel fronds for garnish
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a roasting pan, combine asparagus, fennel, onion and olive oil. Sprinkle a healthy amount of salt. Roast about 1 hour or until vegetables are browned and cooked through. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- In a blender, combine roasted vegetables, broth, lemon juice, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Blend until silky smooth. Reheat in a saucepan before serving. Garnish with fennel fronds.