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Asparagus Soup with Preserved Lemon, Crème Fraîche, Black Garlic Oil, and Parmesan and Pumpkin Seed Crackers

Gretchen
Servings 8 medium bowls

Ingredients
  

  • about 1 pound asparagus (tough lower stalks removed)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (or chicken, if you’re not vegetarian)
  • 2 cups very loosely packed grated parmesan
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups cream
  • 1 cup crème fraîche
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons black garlic oil
  • about half of a preserved lemon

Instructions
 

Roast the asparagus:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Toss the 1 pound of asparagus with enough olive oil to generously coat, along with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet and roast until tender and bright green, 15-20 minutes.

Start the soup:

  • While the asparagus roasts, slice the onion and mince the 4 garlic cloves.
  • Sauté the onion in a large pot with a bit of oil and a generous pinch of salt until it turns translucent and begins to leave brown bits (fond) in the pan.
  • Add the garlic and continue cooking until fragrant, about 45 seconds.

Add the asparagus to the soup:

  • Add the roasted asparagus to the pan, then add 1 cup of broth to deglaze the pan.
  • Reduce until the pan is close to dry again, then add the remaining 3 cups of broth and simmer for 15 minutes or until the asparagus is very tender.

Make the parmesan and pumpkin seed chips:

  • As the asparagus soup simmers, put a clean sheet of parchment paper on the baking sheet.
  • Make 8 rectangles of parmesan on the baking sheet, each about 1” by 3” and using about two tablespoons of parmesan.
  • Divide the 1/3 cup of pumpkin seeds evenly among the parmesan rectangles, making sure they’re spread out evenly and all laying flat.
  • Arrange the remaining parmesan evenly over the existing stacks, again using about two tablespoons of very loosely packed parmesan on each.
  • Bake the parmesan pumpkin seed chips at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 3 to 5 minutes, until melted and very lightly golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Finish the soup:

  • Remove the soup from the heat and allow to cool briefly, then transfer into a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth. (Note: for a very smooth soup, you can run it through a fine strainer at this point.)
  • Put the soup back in the pot and add the 1 1/2 cups of cream. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary (depending on how salty your broth was, you may or may not need to add more).
  • Simmer the soup for about 10 minutes, taste and adjust again, and remove from the heat.

Plate the soup:

  • Ladle a serving of soup into a bowl. Drizzle with crème fraîche and add small drops of black garlic oil.
  • Finely mince the preserved lemon rind (remove and discard the flesh) and sprinkle about half a teaspoon of it evenly over each bowl of soup. (You may want to add more!)
  • Serve each bowl with a parmesan and pumpkin seed chip.