A soup and sandwich has long been a popular meal combination. When I serve it, seasonality often determines what I’ll prepare.
That’s exactly what happened when creating today’s recipes. And it all started when I walked into my corner grocery store, displays of in-season B.C. grown asparagus and radishes caught my eye, and not long after were sitting in my kitchen.
For those of you who have followed this column over the years, you’ll know that asparagus soup is one of my favourites. If you enjoy it too, you’ll be happy to know I’ve simmered up another tasty version of it that’s not difficult to prepare.
Start by slicing some asparagus spears and putting them in a pot with stock and cubed, peeled potatoes, the latter of which helps to thicken the soup. Simmer them for a while, and then add some frozen or freshly shucked peas and sliced green onions to the pot. Simmer the soup a bit longer, until the potatoes are tender, and then add some chopped fresh tarragon (you could also use dill).
It’s now time to puree the soup and taste and season it. For added richness, after ladling the soup into bowls, you can drizzle each serving with a bit cream.
As for the radishes I bought, they were thinly sliced and used to make open-faced sandwiches. Step one in doing that was to spread dense oval bread slices with fromage frais; a tangy, spreadable, fresh cheese made on Vancouver Island by Little Qualicum Cheeseworks (cheeseworks.ca).
The fromage frais was then sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper and then the radishes were set on it. The radishes were sprinkled with sea salt and garnished with small fresh herbs sprigs, which, as with the soup, could be tarragon or dill.
When the soup and open-faced sandwiches are served together you have quite a lovely meal, that’s eye- and palate-appealing, and perfect for late spring.
Asparagus Soup with Peas and Spring Onions
This soup tastily blends together asparagus, potatoes, peas, green onions and herbs. Any leftover soup, once cooled to room temperature, will freeze well.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: About 25 minutes
Makes: four servings
250 grams (about 1/2 lb) asparagus, tough lower stems snapped off, spears sliced into 1-inch pieces (see Note)
1 1/2 cups peeled yellow-fleshed or russet potatoes, cut in 3/4-inch cubes
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock or broth
2/3 cup frozen peas or freshly shucked peas
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp chopped fresh tarragon or dill
• salt and white pepper, to taste
• half and half (10 per cent) cream, to taste (optional)
Place the sliced asparagus spears, potatoes and stock (or broth) in a medium pot set over medium, medium-high heat. Bring the soup to a gentle simmer (small bubbles should just break on the surface), lowering heat as needed to maintain that simmer.
Simmer soup 12 minutes. Mix in the peas and green onions, return soup to a simmer, and cook five minutes more, or until potatoes are very tender.
Mix in the tarragon (or dill), and then puree the soup in a food processor or blender, or right in the pot with an immersion (hand) blender.
Return soup to a simmer; season with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and, if desired, drizzle each serving with a little cream.
Note: Wash asparagus well before using. To ready for cooking, hold an asparagus spear in one hand, with 7.5 to 10 centimetres of the root end sticking out. Now use your other hand to bend the stem end until it snaps off its natural breaking point. The top of the spear is ready to be cooked. You can keep the tough stem end, to flavour vegetable stock, for example, or compost it.
Open-faced Radish Sandwiches with Fromage Frais
Dense, sturdy bread spread with creamy, tangy, fromage frais, spicy radishes and small herb sprigs.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: None
Makes: two servings
1/2 cup fromage frais, or to taste (see Note 1)
4 oval slices dense sprouted wheat, rye or whole wheat bread (see Note 2)
• freshly ground black pepper, to taste
32 to 36 thin radish slices (about six medium radishes, washed well)
• flaked sea salt, to taste
• small fresh tarragon or dill sprigs, to taste
Spread one side of each bread slice with fromage frais. Sprinkle the fromage frais with freshly ground black pepper. Arrange eight or nine slices of radish on each bread slice. Sprinkle radishes with sea salt. Set some small tarragon (or dill) sprigs on each sandwich and serve.
Note 1: Fromage frais, such as Little Qualicum Cheeseworks brand, is sold in the deli section of many supermarkets and smaller food stores.
Note 2: My bread slices were about 4 1/2- to 5-inches long. You can, of course, use your favourite bread in this recipe. But the type I used was the sprouted wheat bread from Wild Fire Bakery (wildfirebakery.ca) in Victoria. It’s also sold, sliced, at some local food stores.
Eric’s options: If you can’t find fromage frais, soft goat cheese or cream cheese could replace it in this recipe.
Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.