Savor the Season: Brenda Langton goes with asparagus


Chef Brenda Langton doesn't hesitate when asked about a springtime, easy-to-prepare favorite. She replies readily: asparagus soup. Langton, who owns and operates Cafe Brenda and Spoonriver Restaurant, makes preparation of this fresh, vegan meal -- featuring the in-season asparagus -- sound just as easy as that. "It's light and it's spring," she says. It doesn't even need any cream, she says. The potato gives it all the texture and heartiness it needs.

The soup takes just six ingredients: olive oil, garlic, onion, zucchini, potato and asparagus (as well as fresh or dried herbs, to taste). Here's all you need to do:

First, saute a couple garlic cloves with some onion, maybe half of one, in a couple tablespoons of oil over medium high heat for about five minutes. Then add a thinly sliced potato (make sure it's thinly sliced, so it cooks uniformly with the remaining ingredients) along with one zucchini, cubed, and an entire bunch of asparagus, cut into one-inch pieces (with the fat ends broken off and perhaps some tips saved for garnish).

Cook over medium to medium-high heat until soft, throw in some dried or fresh herbs (Langton usually uses Herbs de Provence but also says fresh thyme is nice, or whatever you like) and then puree the entire mixture in the blender (careful with the hot liquids!). This will serve about three Langton says.

Langton says the soup can do just fine as a main course. "I like to make it my meal, because it's so wonderful, with a nice loaf of bread and olives." An olive tapenade, some cheese or brown rice could pair well with it too. As you wish, she says.

When asked about white asparagus -- inexplicably favored in some circles, including this nice restaurant I went to a few weeks ago in Puerto Vallarta which had an entirely separate menu featuring it -- Langton recoils. "We want the green, we want the chlorophyll," she says. "That's where the antioxidants and phytonutrients are."