Our visit to Berlin found us smack dab in the middle of Spargelzeit, the joyous German celebration of the annual, abundant crops of white asparagus. Sure, we Americans embrace our seasonal passions for corn, tomatoes, soft shell crabs and the like, but the Teutonic near-frenzy for these juicy, sweet stalks is much more, well, organized than our more freewheeling embraces. Featured on every menu; festive banner-bedecked stands set up on street corners; lavish displays in big department stores like KaDeWe, the fat pale stalks were everywhere and that was just fine and dandy with us.
The worst thing you can do is overwhelm Spargel's delicate flavor. Simple preparations that let the vegetable's sweetness shine through are best. We enjoyed stacks of Spargel mit Butter, Spargel mit holländischer Sauce and Spargel mit Shinken (ham). And of course, this recipe for the steaming bowls of the white asparagus soup we're talking about today.
Readers of German will notice that Spargelcremesuppe indicates cream is included, and that was my intention, honest. But when I puréed the soup and took a taste, I was like, Damn! That is one fine soup. Let's get this photo done quick as so's I can fix me a big old bowl. It wasn't afterwards until I was washing out the pot that I remembered my intentions to swirl in some heavy cream at the end. Je ne regrette rien. ( I guess I could've said Ich bedauere nichts, but "I regret nothing" doesn't seem like a particularly German turn of phrase, if you get my drift.)
And — and — I came across another fabulous new kitchen tool in Berlin: the ultimate asparagus peeler. In a housewares store just off Marlene Dietrich Platz they'd set up a table with a nice supply of fresh fat stalks next to an array of peelers, inviting you to give them test drives. The one I loved has two swivel blades mounted on either side of stainless steel tongs. You only need apply light pressure as you stroke the stalks downwards and the peels fall off easily in long thin strips. I looked for these double bladed peelers online but could only find tongs with blades on one side. I hope it's only a matter of time before these double bladed babies are available here.
So this soup recipe employed both the new peeler and the new Aalto pot guard thingy. Shivers!
A special shout out to the chefs of Berlin is in order: meals in restaurants were always served hot hot hot. Blow-on-your-soup-spoon hot. Your first big bite of Spargel runs the risk of a tongue scalding, requiring fanning your open mouth while lunging for a drink of water. Hot dinner plates and soup bowls ensure that your meals are enjoyably hot start to finish.
I'm not big on sending food back in restaurants. My feeling is if it's not good the first time around, how much better is it going to be on the second outing? The exception is temperature. Oftentimes things are perfectly fine save one crucial aspect: they're not hot enough. It's usually within the talents of most kitchens to heat things up.
White Asparagus Soup — with or without cream — the time is now. Click here for the recipe for Spargelcremesuppe.