Fleets of Asparagus

When asparagus is simmered with onion, garlic and shallot, it takes on delicious flavours.

The very first thing I think of when someone says "asparagus" is that it makes your pee smell funny. I swear. These words actually pop out of my mouth on a regular basis at the grocery store during asparagus ("it makes your pee smell funny") season -- usually only from February to June (too short!). I think that someday I'll be at a really exclusive place, hob-nobbing with the rich and famous, where they'll serve asparagus and those very words will tumble out of my mouth before I have the opportunity to corral them by clamping my hand over my mouth. I'll be shunned. It will be horrible.

It isn't that I don't like asparagus (I'm-not-going-to-say-it), in fact I really do quite enjoy those gorgeous, gangly green stalks. With a little butter and lemon, flash fried in a cast iron skillet they are fantastically spring-like. On a bed of risotto with few accoutrements, they are delectably divine. Grilled on the BBQ with a wrapping of pancetta and some blistered red and yellow grape tomatoes... oooohhhhhh, now that's just a little bit of heaven.

Asparagus ("...") is just so versatile -- it goes with practically everything and looks quite attractive, perched on the plate in its glorious green (and bits of purple) splendor. It is so utterly effortless to cook and uncomplicated to eat -- rather mild and completely non-threatening - it really is the prince of very-very-early-spring vegetables. And when you are able to get those thick, young, still-soft stalks that don't have long woody ends you should consider yourself extremely lucky -- you have to get up pretty early in the morning around here to capture those babies on a Saturday morning.

On Friday night when I finally wandered home from work I was dead tired. So much so that my poor eyes were crossing themselves in their feeble attempts to remain open and functioning. I decided then and there that soup was the best course of action for dinner. What better way is there to ease an aching head and sate a fatigued body than a bowl of bright green soup...? It was delicious -- and totally hit the spot. Following my bowl of cream of asparagus soup I went to bed early, dreaming of summer and fields of fresh-smelling green grass.

Asparagus fleets, n. Roman emperors were so fond of asparagus, which probably originated near the Mediterranean, that they kept special boats for the purpose of fetching it.


Cream of Asparagus Soup

Even if you don't like asparagus, this soup shouldn't be a write-off. When the asparagus is simmered with the onion, garlic and shallot, it takes on those more dominant flavours. And it's such a gorgeous green colour - who couldn't resist it, hot or cold?


1 medium-sized shallot, minced
¼ vidalia onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 lbs green asparagus
2 cups home made or low-sodium chicken broth
1⁄2 cup heavy cream
1/8 cup shredded parmesan cheese
salt & pepper
juice of half a lemon
croutons or toasted baguette and shaved parmesan for garnish

1. Cut tips from asparagus and reserve for garnish. Cut stalks and all remaining asparagus into ½-inch pieces.

2. In a heavy saucepan cook the shallot, onion, garlic, thyme, ¼ teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper in the butter over moderately low heat, stirring, until the shallot is soft. Add the asparagus and the broth, and simmer the mixture, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the asparagus pieces are very soft.

3. While soup simmers, cook reserved asparagus tips in boiling salted water until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes, then drain. Set aside.

4. In a blender purée the soup in batches until it is very smooth, forcing it after it is puréed through a fine sieve set over the pan. Whisk in the cream, until it is the desired consistency, and add the lemon juice, parmesan, salt and pepper to taste.

5. To serve: ladle the soup into a shallow soup bowl, add a few al dente tips and top with a toasted baguette slice (rubbed with garlic for an extra spark) and parmesan curls/shavings.


Jennifer Hamilton adores food. The cooking of it, the eating of it, the discussing of it, the laughing about it, the taking pictures of it, the describing of it, the contemplation of it, the sharing of it and the writing of it.

Sometimes she lies awake at night reading cookbooks: tempting herself with all the new dishes she can make from both familiar and foreign ingredients. To her, cookbooks contain the magnetism of a romance novel, vacation brochure and screenplay – written in a seductive language of zesting, rolling, beating, sweating, kneading, searing, trussing and roasting. Her fingers ache for the roughness of a wooden spoon or the weight of a cast iron skillet, even when she isn’t in the kitchen.

Hoping to pass this enthusiasm along to her young son, she has taken him under her wing and into her kitchen. It takes tolerance and a keen sense of humour to cook for and with a kindergartner—two things Jennifer has in spades.

She will share with you her culinary secrets, and might even admit some of her own shortcomings in the kitchen, and in life. She is devoted to sharing her love of her son, her adoration of food and her trials with her family through her writing, in the hope of inspiring you to love sticking your fingers in the bowl as much as she does.

Follow Jen on Twittter @JennGoddess and visit her other blog www.domesticgoddess.ca