Recipe of the Moment: Asparagus Vichyssoise with Basil Pistou

Asparagus is a member of the Lily family, so it makes sense that it would emerge as one of the signs that spring is finally here. It is high in fiber, folate and potassium. Asparagus contains bone-building vitamin K along with many antioxidants, including vitamins E, A and C as well as saponins – a type of phytonutrient demonstrating anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. They are also beneficial in maintaining blood pressure, regulating blood sugar, and controlling blood lipid levels.
Fun Fact: The growth rate of asparagus can reach as much as 1 inch per hour. In ideal weather, asparagus grows very fast, keeping farmers busy harvesting the spears daily if they want to keep them from turning into large inedible plants. It’s a pretty labor intensive crop, which is one reason why it tends to run on the expensive side. This asparagus soup is fabulous on the early hot days as spring begins transitioning to summer. Really though, it just screams spring and should be enjoyed as soon as you can tolerate the thought of a lukewarm or chilled soup! I love making it as a celebration to the lengthening days and beautiful blooms that are brightening up the city. Enjoy it often, and share it with friends.

Asparagus Vichyssoise
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter or other solid fat
1 cup thinly sliced leek (white and pale green parts only)
1/2 cup 1/2-inch cubes peeled russet potato (about 3 ounces)
2 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
3 cups 1-inch pieces trimmed asparagus (cut from 18 to 20 ounces)
1/4 cup full-fat coconut milk

(for Pistou)
1 clove garlic
1 tsp. salt
1/2 Cup walnut pieces
Juice of one large lemon (about 1/3 Cup)
1 Cup fresh basil
1/3 Cup fresh mint
1/3 Cup extra virgin Olive Oil
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes, or to taste

Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add leek and potato; sauté 2 minutes. Add broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium; cover and cook until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add asparagus. Simmer uncovered until asparagus is just tender, 5 to 6 minutes (depending on thickness of stalks). Remove pan from heat. Transfer 8 asparagus tips to small bowl for garnish.
Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide soup among 4 shallow bowls. Freeze 15 to 20 minutes to chill quickly.
To make Pistou: add the garlic clove, salt and walnuts and into a small food processor and pulse a few times. Chop or tear the herbs into smaller pieces, and add them to the processor with the lemon juice, pulse until everything is coarsely combined. Add a generous pinch of pepper and red pepper flakes and the extra virgin olive oil. Again, a few more pulses to combine.
Add 2 tbsp. pistou to the coconut milk and drizzle atop the soup. Decorate with asparagus tips and serve.

NOTE: My 4 year old who snubs most veggies ate this!

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