Ninety. You’d never guess it from the taste, but that’s the number of calories in two satisfying cups of this velvety soup. Packed with delicious asparagus flavor, and just a hint of lemon, this soup uses the natural fibrousness of the asparagus, low-fat cream cheese, and a blender to achieve the creaminess you’d expect from a soup made with loads of heavy cream, butter, and flour. If you thought you had to give up thick, creamy soups just to cut back on fat and calories, I’ve got you covered.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 3 lbs. fresh asparagus, bottoms trimmed
- 2 medium yellow onions (about 2 cups, chopped)
- 2 T. butter
- 6 c. reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 4 oz. 1/3-less fat cream cheese, softened
- 1 c. fat-free half & half
- 2 T. fresh lemon-thyme (if available), or
- 1 T. lemon zest and 1 T. thyme
- White pepper and salt, to taste
In a heavy 4-5 quart pot, melt the butter over medium heat and add the chopped onion. Stir to coat the onion with butter, sprinkle in a pinch of salt, and reduce the heat a little. Cover the onions, but stir them every few minutes until golden and lightly caramelized. That’ll take about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut the tops off the asparagus (about ½ to 1 inch) and set aside. Cut the remaining stalks into 1-inch pieces.
Once your onions are tender and golden, add the 1-inch stalk pieces to the pot and cover with the chicken broth. Add the lemon thyme (or regular thyme and lemon zest), white pepper, and salt. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer until the asparagus is very tender. I let mine go for about 30 minutes.
While that’s going, make a small bowl of ice water, and put on a small saucepan of water to boil. You only need a few cups to blanch the asparagus tips. Salt the water well (Chef Mario Batali recommends enough salt as to make the water taste like sea water when cooking pasta. I follow this same rule when blanching veggies), and bring to a boil. Drop in the tips and boil for just a couple minutes to bring out the bright green of the tips and to soften them just a bit. With a slotted spoon or the like, transfer the tips into the ice water to stop the cooking and preserve the beautiful color. Drain onto a cloth or paper towel.
Back to the stove, remove the pot from the heat; add the softened cream cheese and blend with an immersion blender until smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, a regular blender or food processor will also work. Just be sure to go in small batches to accommodate your particular machine and divide the cream cheese between the batches. And be careful of (very) hot splashes.
At this point, you can either stir in the blanched tips, save them to garnish each bowl, or divide them for both. Served hot or cold, this tasty soup is sure to become a regular in your recipe rotation. Makes about 12 servings.