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White Asparagus Soup with Crispy Prosciutto
Right Food for the Season - Early Spring
Written by Karen Covey   
I think growing up in New England has really made me appreciate the changing of the seasons and after a long, cold winter there is nothing better than the beginning sights of spring. Flowers begin to peek through the ground, grass begins to turn it's desired shade of green and the markets seem to be busting with fresh produce.

What I've come to discover is that this time of year makes me crave vegetables more than any other. I'm ready to tuck away my stock pot in exchange for my first handfuls of fresh peas and hearty stalks of asparagus. Asparagus has come to be one of my favorite spring vegetables and the first time I saw the white variety available at my local market, I knew I wanted to give it a try. 

White Asparagus is slightly milder in flavor and a bit more tender than green asparagus so it needs a little extra care when handling it as the stalks tend to break quite easily. To keep it white, it's grown under the soil to keep the sun out, thus preventing photosynthesis and the development of chlorophyll - the green color found in regular asparagus. And once it begins to appear from the ground, it's quickly harvested. Unlike its green counterpart, the outer skin of white asparagus is bitter and should be peeled before using, which can easily be done with a vegetable peeler. Substituting the white asparagus for a more traditional green variety came out really great in this soup. Paired with a salty bite of crispy prosciutto garnished on top, this creamy soup is perfect for those cool spring days when the temperature is quite warm enough to completely abolish the idea of a warm bowl of soup.

White Asparagus Soup with Crispy Prosciutto

1 bunch white asparagus, rinsed, trimmed and peeled
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1/2 shallot, thinly sliced
1 sprig fresh thyme
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1-1 1/4 cup low-sodium vegetable stock
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 slice prosciutto, thinly sliced and cut in half
Toasted ciabatta bread for serving, optional

1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
2. Chop asparagus into 2-inch pieces.
3. In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add shallot and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add asparagus and thyme and cook for another 5 minutes. Add stock and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Remove thyme sprig and discard.
4. Purée soup in food processor or blender until smooth. Pour soup back into saucepan to reheat. Add cream and stir to combine. Add more stock, if needed, to reach consistency you prefer.
5. Meanwhile, place prosciutto on a baking sheet and bake for 5-7 minutes until crispy. Ladle soup into bowl and top with crispy prosciutto and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve warm with ciabatta (if using).

Serves 1-2.
Karen Covey's website,  Gourmet Recipes for One™ is a collection of recipes, ideas and inspiration for treating yourself well. It's a place to inspire you to cook something new and different every night of the week, while still getting the most out of your ingredients. Karen believes that, "the simple pleasure of a good, healthy meal should be easy, affordable and enjoyable," and that, "a beautiful meal is something to savor and enjoy, and it's meant to inspire you." 


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