Twenty-Minute Spring Greens and Herb Soup with Asparagus

Until the advent of year-round fresh produce, every Western country had a version of this early spring soup, created in celebration of the first life-giving young shoots appearing in the fields after a long bleak winter. For a population starved of fresh vegetables, these soups were something of a spring tonic, fast, easy, and very healthy. Called “green” soup, or “garden” soup, it uses whatever greens and herbs are in the garden: lettuces, endives, sorrel, herbs (including parsley and lovage), vegetable tops, and watercress. Water as the base will give a purer, truer taste of the greens themselves. A light chicken stock will make it richer, but I prefer water.

Serve it either hot or cold. If cold I put the soup into a bowl, sitting it in an ice bath immediately after it is pureed so the flavors and colors are set.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup loosely packed sorrel leaves, stemmed
  • ½ cup loosely packed watercress leaves
  • 6 cups loosely packed tender mixed lettuce leaves, coarsely chopped
  • teaspoons fresh tarragon leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chervil leaves
  • 8 stems thick asparagus, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large potato, peeled, diced
  • 4 cups water or chicken stock
  • ¼ cup half-and-half
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, shelled, whites and yolks sieved separately
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Put the potato and water or chicken stock in a saucepan. Add teaspoons of salt and bring to a boil. Simmer until the potato is tender, about 10 minutes.

When the potato is cooked, add the sorrel, watercress, lettuce, tarragon, basil, and chervil. Bring back to a boil over high heat, until the greens are wilted, stirring to make sure the leaves cook evenly. Puree the soup, leaving some texture to the leaves. Stir in the cream and season the soup.

Cook the asparagus in salted water for 5 to 8 minutes, or until tender. Drain them on a paper towel for 1 minute.

Divide the asparagus among the centers of hot shallow soup plates. Fill the bowls with soup, and then sprinkle the egg yolks and whites over the surface of the soup.

Variations

Add a tablespoon of butter to the center of each soup plate before pouring in the soup, and shave a few black truffles over it, or add some of the first-crop morels, stewed in butter and chopped.

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