I have a giant celebrity chef crush on Naomi Pomeroy, who owns Beast in Portland, Oregon. I haven’t actually been to her restaurant, but a couple of years ago Alex took me to a cooking class she was teaching for my birthday. If you live in New York and have never been to De Gustibus, I highly recommend it. You get to be right up close and personal with the chefs, asking questions and tasting everything. It’s really amazing! Alex, if you are reading this, there are still tickets available for Susan Spicer and Amanda Freitag…
Anyway, the first thing Naomi made was an asparagus velouté, which is basically a fancy way of saying an incredibly rich, silky smooth soup. It wasn’t difficult to make, but there were a bunch of different components as wells as a chinois involved, so it wasn’t exactly doable on your average weeknight.
Last week I set out to make my own quick and simple version. For inspiration, I looked to one of my favorite super fast soup recipes, Ina Garten’s Spanish pea soup. I swapped asparagus for half of the peas, subbed in vegetable broth, and added a big pinch of lemon zest. Then, because I happened to have a bunch of fresh herbs on hand, I whipped up a simple mint pesto to swirl on top.
I’m totally obsessed with the results. This soup is seriously so delicious, and I love how each bowl is like a study in green. Perfect for spring. It’s flavorful enough even without the pesto, so if you don’t have the time or inclination, you can skip it. We ate this all last week with good bread, roasted tomatoes, and hummus.
Asparagus and Pea Soup with Mint Pesto
Makes 6 servings
For the soup:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped shallots
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound asparagus
1 pound (1 16-ounce package) frozen green peas
4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
For the pesto:
1 cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
To make the soup, heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute more.
Trim the tough ends from the asparagus and discard. Trim the tips and reserve. Chop the stalks and add them to the pot. Sauté until bright green and crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the peas, vegetable broth, salt and pepper and simmer 5 minutes. Add the lemon zest. Puree the soup with an immersion blender (or in batches in a regular blender).
To make the pesto, combine the mint, parsley, pine nuts, lemon juice, garlic, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil.
To serve the soup, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Blanche the reserved asparagus tips for 2 minutes, then drain and rinse in cold water. Ladle the soup into bowls, drizzle with the pesto, and garnish with the asparagus tips.