If spring vegetables had a pageant, I’d bet my grocery money that asparagus, English peas, and ramps would duke it out for beauty queen status. They are all beautiful, certainly, and each already has ties to royal sorts of things. Asparagus perennially springs from a crown of roots beneath the soil. English peas recall that princess who can’t sleep due to a lumpy mattress, and are equally persnickety to get out of their pods. And ramps are now worth their weight in king’s gold since becoming a chefs’ darling ingredient and subsequently over harvested from the wilds of the eastern United States.
Pageant dreams aside, the flavor of asparagus—described by author Karen Page in The Vegetarian Flavor Bible as “quiet to moderate in volume and bittersweet in taste with pungent notes of grass and nuts”—plays well with other spring vegetables on the same plate. Local asparagus in springtime is always going to have the best flavor; however, it’s usually available year-round due to the volumes grown in China and Peru.
An easy way to have asparagus at the ready for soups, salads, and stir fries is to blanch the stalks for 3 to 4 minutes in heavily salted boiling water (1 tablespoon per quart) and then immediately plunge them into ice water. Once drained and dried, blanched asparagus will store for up to a week in the refrigerator, wrapped in a clean towel in an airtight container.
Quick Asparagus, Pea, and Ramp Soup
- 1 pound asparagus, blanched
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for serving
- 1/2 cup chopped ramps, white and pink parts only
- 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups fresh peas, blanched (thawed frozen peas may be substituted)
- 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
- 1 tablespoon chopped mint
- Cut the very tips (about a half-inch) of the spears and reserve them for a garnish. Chop the remainder of the asparagus into 1-inch pieces.
- Melt butter and olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add ramps and cook gently until they become translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add stock, thyme, salt, and pepper; bring to a simmer. Add peas and chopped asparagus, cover, and simmer for 2 minutes. Transfer mixture plus parsley into a blender and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
- Divide soup among 4 warm bowls. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with mint, parsley, and reserved asparagus tips.