Spring is busting out all over, and so too are the first hints at the green vegetables of the season – asparagus and green peas, balanced with leeks and fennel and fresh herbs. This delicious soup makes the most of all the lovely shades of green that are so evocative of spring, and best of all wastes nothing. It’s perfect for the early days of the farmers market or a spring CSA box. Each bowl is packed with earthy flavor and is decidedly healthy, and vegetarian. It’s a wonderful way to enjoy the beautiful greens hues of spring.
One of the best things about this soup is that it uses all parts of the vegetables and herbs – many of these green treasures have bits that get cut off and discarded all too often, when they are the perfect flavor builders for a rich vegetable stock with the palest green tint. I sometimes add a rind of parmesan cheese for some added umami flavor, but the soup is still delicious without it, and totally vegan. You will put your knife skills to work here (for a good cause), but in a pinch, you could pulse the larger vegetables in a food processor. And remember this tip – any time you trim leeks, fennel bulbs, remove the tough ends of asparagus or cut the stems from herbs, put them in a Ziploc bag and store in the freezer. When the bag is full, make a batch of vegetable stock that can then be frozen in portions. Use it in any good vegetable soup. Slice some baguette or a sourdough boule, brush with olive oil and rub the cut side of a garlic clove over the bread, sprinkle with salt and toast for the perfect accompaniment to this soup.
Green Spring Vegetable Soup
2 medium leeks
1 large (or 2 small fennel bulbs)
1 bunch (about 6 – 7) green onions
1 bunch asparagus
3 stalks celery, plus the leaves
1 white onion
4 garlic cloves
1 bunch dill
1 bunch flat leaf parsley
3 sprigs of tarragon
2- 3 inch piece of parmesan cheese rind (optional)
1 large lemon
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 cups frozen or fresh green peas
Grated parmesan cheese (optional)
- Cut the dark, leafy parts from the leeks, then trim off the dried ends and any outside, really hard leaves. Cut into rough chunks and put in a colander set in a sink of cool water. Cut the stalks from the fennel (reserving a few feathery fronds for the finished soup), then cut into chunks and add to the colander. Swish around to loosen any clinging dirt, then lift out the colander and put the vegetables in a large 8-quart Dutch oven or stock pot. Cut the woody stalks from the asparagus, the leaves and any very tender inner stalks from the celery, the darker green stalks form the green onions, the stems from the dill and parsley and put them in the colander and swish in the water to clean. Add to the pot. Cut the onion in to quarters (no need to peel) and add to the pot with the garlic cloves (no need to peel), which you should lightly crush with the flat side of a knife. Add one celery stalk cut into pieces, a sprig of dill, a sprig of parsley, a stalk of tarragon and the parmesan rind if using and a good Tablespoon or so salt. Peel strips of yellow zest from the lemon and add to the pot. Add 12 cups of water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the pot and simmer for 1 1/2 hours until the broth is fragrant and flavorful, stirring occasionally. Line a colander with a piece of damp cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl. Pour the stock through the colander and let the vegetables drain, then discard them.
- While the stock is simmering, cut the white and light green parts of the leeks in half lengthwise, then in half lengthwise again, then slice into slender pieces. Place in the colander and rinse well with cool water. Cut the fennel in half, remove the tough triangular core and bottom, then finely dice the bulb. Dice two celery stalks into small pieces. Cut the light parts of the green onions in half lengthwise and finely chop. Cut the tender tips off the asparagus and short pieces of soft stem. Remember this is soup you will be eating with a spoon, so size the vegetables accordingly. Squeeze the juice from the lemon and strain out any seeds.
- Wipe out the pot, then heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the leeks, fennel and celery and green onion and sauté until soft and glassy, stirring frequently to prevent browning. Add 1 ½ cups of the strained stock and cook until the liquid is almost evaporated. Stirring occasionally. Pour in 8 cups of the stock, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Finely chop ¼ cup of parsley, ¼ cup of dill and the remaining tarragon leaves and add to the soup. Taste and season with salt. The soup can be made up to this point a few hours ahead and stored in the fridge. Before serving, heat over medium heat, then add the peas and the asparagus tips and pieces. Add the lemon juice and cook just until the peas and asparagus are tender.
- Serve in bowls sprinkled with some additional chopped herbs, ad a little grated parmesan cheese if you like.