I spent a spring—or Spargelzeit, as the Germans call it—studying abroad in Berlin during college. If you’re in Berlin in the spring and you don’t like white asparagus (“Spargel”), well, you’re going to have a tough time finding local, seasonal, delicious dishes.
Take it from me: I couldn’t stand the stuff when I first arrived. This was problematic. Every single restaurant, didn’t matter the cuisine, had a special Spargel Speisekarte—a menu featuring white asparagus. The time of year even has a name: Spargelzeit or Spargelsaison. Fortunately, I came around to it by the end of the season. Spargel is traditionally served with hollandaise sauce, but my favorite presentation is in spargelcremezuppe.
In this light creamy soup, the asparagus is simmered in stock with onions until tender, then blended. It is traditionally garnished with finely chopped chives, which enhance the onion-y flavor. I didn’t have chives on hand, so I garnished mine with balsamic vinegar instead.
Many recipes call for the addition of heavy cream or milk, but it’s not necessary. The asparagus is creamy enough on its own that it doesn’t need the extra dairy. Many also called for sugar, which I omitted because the onions add enough sweetness for me.
For a little bit of extra flavor and New York spring flare, I used ramp butter for both the soup and the crostini. The recipe for the ramp butter follows.
- 1 T butter
- 1 sweet yellow onion, diced
- 1 stalk celery
- 1 bunch white asparagus
- 2 C fish stock
- tsp black pepper
- 1ish tsp balsamic vinegar
- Melt the butter in a heavy pot. Add diced onion and celery and cook over low heat until fragrant.
- Meanwhile, peel the asparagus with a veggie peeler, starting from just under the buds. This removes the tough outer layer and will make for a much more tender soup. Trim both ends, reserving the buds for later use. Dice the remaining asparagus and add to the pot.
- Add in the fish stock and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the asparagus is tender.
- Puree with an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender.
- Bring back to a boil until thickened to the desired consistency.
- Ladle into bowls and garnish with fresh cracked pepper and balsamic vinegar.
Based loosely off the recipe found at Almond Corner: http://almondcorner.blogspot.com/2008/04/white-asparagus-soup.html
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes ½ cup
2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 tsp salt
Blanche ramps in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and immediately plunge into ice bath. Finely dice white and red stems. Reserve greens for another use (ramp pesto?).
Mix ramps and salt into butter with a fork until well incorporated.
Roll into a log in wax or parchment paper. To get a nice round log shape, place dollops in a line in the middle of the paper. Fold the paper over it towards you so that the top is an inch or so shorter than the bottom. Gently form into a log with your hands. Then, place your right hand perpendicular to the counter just next to the butter. Using your left hand, carefully pull the bottom layer towards you. The butter will roll and create a perfect log from the tension.
Freeze and enjoy all year round, long past ramp season.