I am of the mindset that it’s not humanly possible to think of spring without the colour green sneaking its way into whatever picture is forming in your mind (like the one of the awesome happy dance you plan to do when you finally put your parka away for good!). One of my all-time favourite days each year is the one where you finally register that the trees have exploded with an abundance of beautiful green leaves and spring has finally (FINALLY!) arrived. Unfortunately that day is not today. BUT that doesn’t mean you can’t fill your eyeballs with other beautiful green sights, particularly on your plate. Enter my Smoky Asparagus Soup.
This week in class we had to give 3-5 minute presentations on assigned vitamins (I got good ol’ vitamin A). No PowerPoints or fancy visual aids allowed meant it was an hour and a half of watching people read from their one page handouts like a bunch of nervous grade school kids. But despite the lack of showmanship there was actually a lot of valuable information shared (although full disclosure: my grade school presentation skills came with a grade school attention span, meaning I zoned out a few times. Luckily our instructor was taking notes on the board…). What I did garner from the hours of vitamin tire pumping was that little old asparagus (known mostly from its smelly pee joke fame) is actually a rockstar of the vitamin world. And to prove it to you, here are the top 5 ways that asparagus is amazing:
- As I mentioned above, it’s loaded with nutrients, including lots of fiber, folate, vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells (think energy!).
- Asparagus is a particularly rich source of glutathione, a detoxifying compound that helps break down carcinogens and other harmful compounds like free radicals, so it may help protect against and fight certain forms of cancer, such as bone, breast, colon, larynx and lung cancers. And if you have hopped on the detox diet trend, asparagus is your new best friend!
- Asparagus is packed with antioxidants, ranking among the top fruits and vegetables for its ability to neutralize cell-damaging free radicals. This, according to preliminary research, may help slow the aging process – and at a fraction of the cost of a face lift.
- Not just for skin – asparagus can keep your brain young, too. Like leafy greens, asparagus delivers folate, which works with vitamin B12—found in fish, poultry, meat and dairy—to help prevent cognitive impairment. In one study, older adults with healthy levels of folate and B12 performed better on a test of response speed and mental flexibility. You don’t have to admit to it (and by eating your asparagus you may not have to!), but if you’re 50-plus, it’s important to be sure you’re getting enough B12 since your ability to absorb it decreases with age.
- One last benefit of asparagus: It contains high levels of the amino acid asparagine, which serves as a natural diuretic, thus decreasing fluid retention while also helping to rid the body of excess salts. This is especially beneficial for people who suffer from edema (an accumulation of fluids in the body’s tissues) and those who have high blood pressure or other heart-related diseases. Or those of us who just don’t want to look crazy bloated.
So there you have it. Asparagus – get it in you. And what better way to do that then with a nourishing, delicious bowl of homemade soup (that you whipped up in just 25 minutes!). The paprika in this recipe gives it the unexpected smoky flavour that takes this soup from boring to amazing. And since it’s non-dairy, low-fat, vegan (if you use vegetable stock), and packed with all those nutrients we talked about above, it’s pretty much the perfect spring lunch menu option.
The Natural Blonde
P.s To my classmates: I did not mean to imply that you or your presentations were boring. I am just poking fun at the fact that in today’s world unless someone’s presentation involves juggling fire while giving out free wine and cookies, no one is paying complete attention. You can thank the Internet. And wine and cookies.
Smoky Asparagus Soup
- 2 Tbsp. grape seed oil (I recently stopped cooking with olive oil as it’s not a good option for high heat – something I will discuss in a future post)
- 1 large leek, white and light green portions only, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (make sure to wash these well!)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. Hungarian paprika, plus more for sprinkling
- 1 ½ lb. asparagus, ends trimmed, spears cut into 1-inch pieces
- 3 cups organic chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 cup baby spinach leaves
- ½ a lemon, juiced
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Fresh parsley for garnish (optional)
In large stock pot, heat the oil on medium high heat. Add in the leeks along with salt and pepper and sauté until softened, around 6 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another 1-2 minutes.
Next, add in your asparagus and sauté for 1 minute before adding the stock. Bring to a boil before reducing to simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the spinach and lemon juice, allowing a minute or two for the spinach to wilt. If you’re using a traditional blender, allow the soup to cool slightly before pureeing in batches until smooth. If you’re like me and use an immersion blender, no need to wait! Just blend away.
Transfer to bowls, garnish with fresh parsley and a sprinkle of paprika and enjoy!
Can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.