Hearty Summer Soup
Asparagus is at its peak right now – don’t miss it! Grilled, roasted, blanched…all fabulous, but make sure to save a bunch for this lovely soup. (Or for this potato-asparagus frittata, which I posted last week.)
Here’s a simple, flavorful soup that makes delicious use of spring and summer produce. In this version I include chopped asparagus, but later in the season you could stir in pea pods, spinach, arugula, corn, tomatoes, peas, fava beans, or green beans; whatever you like and/or find at the farmer’s market.
I’m a big fan of how a little bacon adds huge flavor to a pot of soup (and everything). It may seem like gilding the lily to add a splash of cream at the end, and perhaps it is, but it’s a small amount and it adds a nicely silky finish. A shower of fresh herbs is a lovely garnish, but a swirl of pesto is even better, adding a layer of flavor complexity to what is in effect a quick weeknight soup. Crusty bread and a plate of sliced tomatoes are my favorite accompaniments, but the soup is filling enough to stand on its own. Make a pot for dinner, take the leftovers for lunch the next day, all good.
Hearty Summer Soup
2 slices bacon, chopped
2 leeks, white and pale green parts only, sliced thin
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 c. raw rice
48 oz. (6 c.) chicken broth or stock
1 bunch asparagus, tough ends removed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 c. cooked chicken, pulled into bite-sized pieces
1/4 c. cream
salt and freshly ground pepper
chopped fresh herbs or pesto for garnish
In a Dutch oven over medium heat, sauté bacon until crisp. Stir in leeks with a sprinkle of salt and lower heat. Cook leeks gently, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in garlic, thyme, and rice and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add chicken broth, bring to boil, then simmer uncovered over lowest heat for 20 minutes, until rice is tender.
When rice is cooked, stir asparagus into the soup. Simmer for a couple of minutes, then stir in chicken and cream. Taste for salt. To serve, ladle soup into bowls and finish with a sprinkle of fresh herbs or a teaspoon of pesto and a generous grind of black pepper.
(To do ahead, you could prepare the soup up until adding the asparagus, cool, then chill. Before serving, heat the soup, add the asparagus, then cream and chicken, and serve as described.)
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