Creamy vegetable soup

Asparagus soup drizzled with sriracha

Now that spring vegetables are beginning to appear on grocery shelves and at farmers’ markets, it’s a great time to resurrect a recipe for a light cream soup. Add a fresh salad of spring mix with a homemade vinaigrette and a slice of crusty Italian toast and you have a winning, quick spring-infused meal. 

We seem to have an abundance of fresh asparagus available in North Carolina, so besides simply roasting it in olive oil, this week I made pasta primavera with the tips and then used the stalks in a creamy asparagus soup. 

It’s so easy, quick and light, and remarkably satisfying. Don’t be put off by the word “cream” if you are counting calories, because there are many ways to make a creamy soup without cream. I made mine with richly flavored homemade vegetable stock and thickened it with a bit of flour. Of course, the richness of cream is sometimes worth the indulgence. 

Once you make the easy base, the choice is yours as to what vegetables to add. The key is to cook the vegetables until soft then puree. Many don’t need further seasoning than salt and pepper but use your creative hand to make the soup Italian flavored with oregano and basil, curry-flavored by adding a tablespoon of red curry paste, or Tex-Mex with chipotle and cumin. Give it a middle eastern flair with chopped mint and feta as garnishes. 

  • 2 T. butter or olive oil
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 T. flour
  • 4 c. broth (chicken or vegetable)
  • 2 cups vegetables of choice (see note below)
  • ½ c. half-and-half, rice cream, coconut milk or pureed cannellini beans (completely optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter or oil in a large saucepan. Add onions and garlic and saute until tender. Sprinkle with flour and stir briefly. Add broth, whisking as you pour it in. If it’s too thick, add a bit more broth or water. Add the vegetables and saute until tender. Remove from heat and puree with a hand blender. You can puree until smooth or leave it somewhat chunky. Stir in half-and-half or another cream if you wish and season to taste. Pour into bowls and garnish with garlic croutons, scallions, feta or goat cheese, parmesan. I like to add a spoonful of harissa for spice. 

Note: suggestions for vegetables are endless. Raid the crisper drawers or freezer and come up with your own combinations. Frozen vegetables can make a really quick soup. Add mushrooms, spinach, carrots and skip the puree step for a delicious chunky soup.

  • Fresh or frozen peas and chopped carrots
  • Tomatoes and basil
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Corn
  • Edamame
  • Peppers and carrots
  • Eggplant
  • Zucchini
  • Beets
  • Pumpkin or winter squash

Here’s a secret – make a creamy base from rice: 

1/3 c. medium or long-grained white rice

3 c. broth, chicken or vegetable

Film a deep saucepan with olive oil, add the rice and cook for two minutes, stirring. Add the broth, reduce the heat and simmer until the rice is soft with most of the liquid, about 25 minutes. 

Transfer to a blender or use a stick blender and process until the sauce is smooth. Use as a substitute for cream or milk in any cream-based recipe.

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