Every time I cook with asparagus, I fret over those woody ends that I’ve always been taught are good for nothing but the compost pile. While I can add them to my freezer bag of vegetable scraps to make stock, I felt like there had to be something more I could do with them to let the bright taste of asparagus still be featured. That’s how I came up with this asparagus soup recipe using leftover asparagus ends.I’ve been struggling to write this post because my mind is consumed with the events of last weekend. But as I thought of these typically discarded asparagus ends, a metaphor came to my mind.
Above is a photo of just half the asparagus ends I had after making roast asparagus for Easter brunch. Typically they’re viewed as a wretched byproduct, worthless for anything but a garbage heap. But I knew there had to be more to them than that. They had to be good for something, not just hidden or covered up, they needed someone to see their potential. Someone had to recognize that these tough unpalatable asparagus ends could become something beautiful if they would just put some work into it.
I started by nibbling at them, tasting them to make sure they still had good asparagus flavor. They were tough, the texture was awful, way to much work to eat as is, but the flavor was good.
I decided to boil them in water, harsh treatment, perhaps painful, but necessary to get past their tough exterior. An hour in scalding, rolling, bubbling liquid and the ends were mush. They fell apart, gave up their resistance. Still, the mush was unpleasant, it had stringy threads of asparagus fiber. It had to be strained, the inedible bits needed to be removed.
Once passed through a strainer, the inedible pulp discarded into the compost heap, a beautiful light and fresh broth was left behind. The asparagus flavor was strong, but it was now a clean palette, ready to accept new flavors and textures.
I started another pot, this time with a little coconut oil, some cloves of garlic and sliced potatoes and onions. They sizzled away, turning golden brown, gathering flavor. I added these to the asparagus broth and turned on the heat again. They simmered together, everything softening, until I blended it to create a perfect mix.
The asparagus once again had texture, body, heart. I added lemon juice, salt, and pepper to enhance the flavor of the asparagus. I added cream to make it rich and comforting.
Soon it was a beautiful, creamy, flavorful soup. The essence of the asparagus still remained, shined through the other flavors and textures. No longer the discarded rejects, these asparagus ends became a thing of beauty.
I have the same hope for the discarded, rejected youth of our town. Adults see these tough, hardened kids and teenagers as hopeless. They casually say remarks like “Things will never change”, or “It’s not like there’s anything else for them”. If the adults don’t believe in the potential of young people, how can the youth ever be expected to believe in themselves?
Eric and I led a teen recovery program for two years. We’ve also counseled hundreds of young people over the past eight years. Sometimes it’s really good kids from great families who are struggling with stress, insecurity, or hurts they don’t feel safe talking to their parents about. Sometimes it’s homeless teens who come from a history of abuse, addiction and mental illness. No matter what the circumstances, we’ve noticed that a kid or teen who has a safe adult to talk to and believe in them tends to be able to start making wiser decisions.
It’s a lot of work. It takes some heat and stress to help someone get to the root of their issues. Whether that root be a fear of abandonment caused by a parent who’s never around, or a distrust of people because of past hurts, it’s painful to try and recognize it. But once they accept that pain, they can start to heal. They can start adding healthy coping skills and meaningful relationships to their lives. They can gain hope for a healthy successful future.
Sure, it’s easier to view these youth as outcasts, remnants of normal society. But if enough people recognize their potential, let their hearts be broken enough by the damage done to these kids to try and make a difference in their lives, perhaps we can see their true beauty that’s so hidden by years of neglect.
There are a lot of life lessons to be learned in the kitchen. Have you learned any lately?
Creamy Asparagus Ends SoupPrep time: 20 minutes Cook time: 1 hour Total time: 1 hour and 20 minutes Yield: 4-6 servings
- 1 TBS
yellow onion, chopped
medium red potatoes, chopped
- 1/4 cup
- to taste
salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup
grated parmesan (optional)
- 2 oz
prosciutto, sliced and fried (optional)
roasted asparagus spears (optional)
- Place the asparagus ends in a large pot and fill with water to cover one inch above the asparagus. Bring to a boil and simmer 30-40 minutes until asparagus is very mushy.
- Blend the asparagus and liquid it boiled in using an immersion blender (In a regular blender, blend in small batches as hot liquids expand). Strain the pulp out, reserving the liquid.
- Melt the coconut oil in the large pot and add the onion and potatoes. Heat on high, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes until there are some good char marks on the vegetables.
- Add the reserved asparagus stock and simmer on medium low for 20-30 minutes until vegetables are very soft. Blend well.
- Add juice of the 1/2 lemon, cream and salt and pepper to taste.
- (Optional: garnish the bowls of soup with grated parmesan, fried prosciutto, roasted asparagus spears and/or zest of the 1/2 lemon)
Approximate cost/serving: Really I don’t think of the cost of the asparagus ends as a part of this recipe since it’s something that would be thrown away. With the other necessary ingredients it was just $1.80! The optional garnishes will of course increase that cost but on its own the soup is just 30-45 cents per serving (yield depending on how many ends you had).
Vegetarian/Gluten Free: The soup is gluten free and without the prosciutto it’s meat free. You can omit the cream to make it vegan and add an additional potato to thicken it up if you’d like.