Asparagus soup with hazelnuts and Cholula

I told you to expect a soup recipe this week, and here it is!

Really, this recipe comes from the simplest kind of inspiration: a box full of vegetables.
Like a lot of people in Seattle, we get a regular delivery of organic vegetables and recently one of those boxes had, among other things, asparagus, potatoes, and fennel.  And it was cold out (surprise, surprise). So, I determined to make a soup. From that starting point came this recipe that enhances the asparagus with the sweet yet tannic flavor of hazelnuts and the signature kick of Cholula.

Makes about 6-8 servings.

What you'll need:

3 small russet potatoes, peeled & chopped
1 large leek, chopped
1.5 quarts chicken stock
Large bunch of asparagus
Medium bulb of fennel
Salt
Pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 bunch spinach
2 ounces Flagship cheese, shredded
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
Cholula sauce
1/4 tsp ground fennel
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp chile powder
1/2 tsp crumbled rosemary
1 tablespoon rice vinegar

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast for approximately ten minutes until fragrant and slightly browned.

Once the potatoes are peeled and chopped, put them in a medium pot with the leek and chicken broth, bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer.  Once your potatoes are soft (fork-test), put everything from the pot into a food processor, purée and reserve.

Bring the oven to 500 degrees F. Cut the asparagus and the fennel into 1-inch pieces and toss them with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread them evenly on a sheet pan. Roast them in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until brown on edges, but not soft. Remove from the oven, place in a food processor with the cleaned spinach, and pulse 4 to 8 times to achieve a rustic, rough-chopped look.

Ingredients can be held separately for several days. When ready to serve, combine the potato mixture and the asparagus mixture in a pot with rice vinegar, cheese and spices and heat through.

Garnish with one teaspoon of hazelnuts per serving and several drops of Cholula or your favorite bright red hot sauce.

It all comes out with a great trio of color - the mild green of the asparagus, the crispy brown of the hazelnuts, and the vibrant red of the Cholula.

Try this recipe out! Let me know what you think. As I said in post number one, I really would love to even workshop some recipes on this blog and would love your feedback.

Eat well,
Kurt Dammeier
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