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Cooking with Pete and Barb Marczyk: Cream of asparagus soup

Pete Marczyk and Barbara Macfarlane do not leave their work behind when they leave Marczyk Fine Foods and head for their great old Denver house with the big, new kitchen. They often bring some of their market's choicest ingredients home with them and cook up a feast.

Marczyk's just received a crop of organic Colorado asparagus -- the first of the season. "It's so fresh and so sweet, and I actually wrapped some of the stalks in prosciutto, which overpowered it," admits Barb, who then remembered that she had a recipe for cream of asparagus soup from a 1987 issue of Gourmet magazine. "I thought maybe the Gourmet recipe, a nice simple one, would do this asparagus justice," she says, adding a warning: "Many people who have commented on this recipe recommend adding garlic, bacon and all sorts of other stuff. Don't do it. Just enjoy the taste of fresh Colorado asparagus."

Cream of asparagus soup

Ingredients

2 pounds green asparagus 1 large onion, chopped 3 tablespoons unsalted butter 5 to 6 cups chicken broth 1/2 cup crème fraîche or heavy cream 1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste

Directions

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1. Cut tips from 12 asparagus 1 1/2 inches from top and halve tips lengthwise if thick. Reserve for garnish. 2. Snap off bottoms*, and cut stalks and all remaining asparagus into 1/2-inch pieces. 3. Cook onion in 2 tablespoons butter in a 4-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened. Add asparagus pieces and salt and pepper to taste, then cook, stirring, 5 minutes. Add 5 cups broth and simmer, covered, until asparagus is very tender, 15 to 20 minutes. 4. While soup simmers, cook reserved asparagus tips in boiling salted water until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes, then drain. 5. Purée soup in batches in a blender (or use an immersion blender) until smooth, transferring to a bowl, and return to pan. 6. Stir in crème fraîche, then add more broth to thin soup to desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Bring soup to a boil and whisk in remaining tablespoon butter. 7. Add lemon juice and garnish with asparagus tips.

*If you hold the stalk about half way down from the top, and hold the bottom of the stalk with your other hand and bend it, the stalk will break off at a natural spot where the stalk starts to get woody.

For more from Pete, Barbara and Marczyk Fine Foods, visit the market website. And be sure to check out Pete's blog and Marczyk Fine Wines.

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