Asparagus Soup

I love asparagus.  I can't wait for Spring produce each year, when the stalks are thin and tender and delicious.  I usually just roast them in the oven with some olive oil, salt, and pepper.  It's such a wonderful welcome back to warm weather and green foods.
When I saw Shutterbean had posted asparagus soup, I just had to try it.  It was full of pure asparagus flavor, and soup is the perfect excuse to pile on the toppings (this might be the closest I get to posting a salad, folks).  The base of this soup is vegan, it's just the toppings I went overboard a bit on :-)  So if you are looking for an easy meal to please any diet, this is a great option!
I thought the soup could use a bit more thickness to it though, and since I wanted to keep this base dairy-free, I blended in a potato to add some heft, and the soup went from good to great.  The soup reheats like a dream, and I had the best lunches at work for the week!  I even brought in an egg and a little bag of crumbled bacon and feta to add each day, it was so amazing.
The ingredients couldn't be simpler- onion, asparagus, chicken broth, and some seasonings.  Well, and now potato, to thicken it up.  You could serve this cold as an appetizer on a hot day, or keep things warm and add all the fixings to make it the main meal.
And once again, I was thankful for my immersion blender, which made quick work of all the veggies!  I was lucky enough to be gifted mine a few years ago; it's an Oster and a total workhorse.  This immersion blender is very similar to mine, and gets great reviews online!
Once you've blended the soup, let's look at the toppings.  I kept a few pieces of asparagus for garnish, I baked some proscuitto to crisp it up and crumble it into the soup (bacon is also divine), poached an egg, and sprinkled some feta onto my portion.  I've never been so excited for soup, and it was the perfect way to celebrate Spring.
Asparagus Soup (adapted slightly from Shutterbean)
serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, depending on your heat preference
1 lb asparagus*, chopped; reserve a few spears for garnish, if desired
1 russet potato, peeled and chopped
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste

Toppings to serve if desired:
Poached eggs
Crisp bacon or proscuitto
Crumbled feta cheese
Reserved asparagus spears
Creme fraiche

*Buy more than 1 lb, since you'll be trimming off the tough ends.  And remember, you're blending this soup, so you don't need to go crazy making the chopped veggies uniform.

Heat a large pot over medium high heat.  Add the olive oil and spread around.  Add the onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, asparagus, and potato.  Saute until the veggies are softening and the onion is turning translucent, about 10 minutes.  Add the broth and cook for 15-20 minutes.  Prick a potato with a fork to ensure it's soft and cooked enough.

Using an immersion blender (or blend in batches in a regular blender), blend the soup until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper, and serve with any or all of the toppings listed above.

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