An easy, light spring soup ready in minutes.
When asparagus first shows up at the market, steaming or roasting it plain is all one needs to do. As the season goes on, however, you may find yourself wanting some new ways of cooking up these grassy spears. This soup keeps that spring flavor front and center, using chickpeas to thicken things up without tamping down the asparagus.
Most people would probably see this soup as a starter to a larger meal. It works equally well on those evenings when a lighter dinner is more tempting since a simple green salad and a loaf of bread or stack of crackers turn this pretty green soup into a meal. The garlic-herb swirl is optional—you may prefer just a scattering of herbs or a dollop of Greek yogurt or a drizzle of olive oil—but the intense, bright flavor of the gremolata-like mixture turns the simple soup into something surprisingly special.
- 1 bunch asparagus (12 -16 ounces)
- 4 cups vegetable broth or chicken stock
- 1 can (15-ounce) chickpeas, a.k.a. garbanzo beans
- Sea salt to taste
Garlic-Herb Swirl (optional)
- 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 10 large mint leaves
- 1 lemon
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Cut off and discard any dried section at the bottom of the asparagus stalks—super fresh stalks may not require trimming at all, but most benefit from being rid of the bottom inch or so. Chop the trimmed asparagus stalks into 1- to 2-inch pieces; if you want to have some more texture in the final soup, set the tips aside separately.
- Rinse and drain the chickpeas. Put the chickpeas and the broth in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add enough salt to perk up the flavor of the liquid; this will vary greatly depending on how much salt is in the broth you're using.
- Add the asparagus (not the tips if you want that extra texture). Adjust the heat to maintain a steady simmer and cook until the asparagus is very tender, 5 to 10 minutes depending on how thick the asparagus stalks are.
- If you have a hand-held blender, now is a great time to use it—whirl the soup in the pot until smooth. If you don't have an immersion blender, transfer the soup to a blender or food processor, whirling in batches, if necessary. Be sure to hold a kitchen towel over the blender to prevent hot splatters. However you blend it, whirl the soup until utterly, completely smooth.
- Return the soup to a simmer over medium-low heat. Add the reserved asparagus tips and cook until the tips are tender, about 3 minutes. Add salt to taste.
- Serve the soup hot, with a drizzle of the garlic-parsley mixture swirled on top, if you like.
To Make the Garlic-Herb Swirl
- While the soup simmers, mince the parsley and mint. Put it in a small bowl.
- Peel and mince the garlic and add it to the parsley.
- Zest the lemon (about 1 teaspoon) into the parsley-garlic mixture.
- Cut the lemon in half and juice it into the mixture (about 1 tablespoon). Add the olive oil and the pepper. Stir to combine. Add salt to taste and set aside.