The first time I ate asparagus I was a teenager. For a reason I can’t remember, I was visiting my oldest sister, who lived a couple hours away in Ohio with her husband. She had just finished a day’s work, and we were at the grocery store hurriedly trying to gather enough stuff for some unexpected company for dinner. (Can’t remember who that was, either; seems all I can remember is the food!)
She’s dashing from one aisle to the other, putting things in the basket I’m carrying, dutifully following her around. She collects a slice of ham, a can of pineapple rings, a can of asparagus, and a rice mix in five minutes and we’re outta there. Dinner! I was impressed at how quickly she pulled it together.
My sister is one of the most intelligent and interesting people I know. She’s now 73 and is a retired pharmacist, but she hasn’t slowed down one iota. She’s in Europe as we speak, although I’m not sure for what this time. Last fall she was in Rome and witnessed a saint beatification ceremony at the Vatican. Before that it was to England for a contra dancing festival, and she spent Christmas in Ireland one year, too. Did I mention Australia? She even met her husband on one of her several cruises, the Mississippi one, I think, maybe Hawaii. (She’s tough to keep up with.) She takes art classes at the university and teaches tai chi. She’s a great seamstress and she weaves. She has so many other and such varied interests, it’s no wonder cooking doesn’t rank right up there. She introduced me to her favorite cookbook, Peg Bracken’s "I Hate to Cook Book." If you’ve never looked at the book, you must. It’s a hoot. Not only is it fun to read, it has some pretty useful recipes, too; not exactly health-food, mind you, but useful.
Back to asparagus. Although it tasted pretty good, I didn’t like the texture. Kinda soft. And the green wasn’t a bright green, more the avocado green of 1970s appliances. Since then, I’ve learned that canned asparagus – like most canned vegetables – is pretty low on the taste/texture scale. Frozen is better than canned and fresh is best of all. And even though you can get asparagus pretty much any time of year, spring is still the best for tenderness and taste. Since I’ve learned it has so many healthy attributes, I like it all the more.
We’ve had asparagus at home at least once a week for a couple months. In fact, we had some last night, and there’s just enough left over to make this soup today. Maybe I should think about putting it in my vegetable garden this year. (And since I first learned to roast it at Christmas time, it’s my favorite way to cook it. I took a side of a roasted asparagus salad to the Easter feast my sister-in-law hosted.)
It is a pretty versatile vegetable – even good in this soup. I only adapted it a little from the Peter Christian’s cookbook. And I still thank my sister Anne for introducing me to asparagus in the first place.
Dilled Asparagus Ham Chowder
3 T. butter
1 medium onion
1 celery stalk
1 peeled potato
8 asparagus spears
1 cup diced ham
2 cups water
¼ cup water
3 T flour
2 c milk
1 cup light cream
1 T onion salt
½ t white pepper
1 t. dried basil
1 T. dried dill
Melt the butter in a soup pot. Dice the onion, celery, potato and asparagus and cook in the butter for 10 minutes over medium heat. Add the 2 cups water and ham.
In a small bowl, mix the ¼ cup water and the flour and add to soup, stirring until thickened. Add the milk and cream.
Continue cooking over low heat seasoning with the remaining ingredients. Simmer for 15 minutes until flavors have blended.
(I had fresh dill so I added ¼ cup; since my asparagus was already cooked, I added with the ham.)