As Simple and Ordinary as That

First things first: thank you so, so much for all of your amazing solo-eating suggestions, and cooking-for-one book suggestions! I’m overwhelmed by your comments and emails…and dinner ideas. Where to begin? Grilled cheese, pasta with bacon, scrambled eggs for dinner…Yes, please. The majority of the advice I’ve gotten from family, friends, and you all here is that time continues on whether you like it or not. It just does. And through that, things get easier. I’m trusting you on this one.

I just finished re-reading The Hours a few nights ago. Have you read it? I think Michael Cunningham captures the intricacies of character, relationships and moments really beautifully. Towards the end of the novel, I found myself rereading this passage over and over:

“We live our lives, do whatever we do, and then we sleep–it’s as simple and ordinary as that. A few jump out of windows or drown themselves or take pills; more die by accident; and most of us, the vast majority, are slowly devoured by some disease, or if we’re fortunate, by time itself. There’s just this for consolation: an hour here or there when our lives seem, against all odds and expectations, to burst open and give us everything we’ve ever imagined, though everyone but children (and perhaps even they) knows these hours will inevitably be followed by others, far darker and more difficult. Still we cherish the city, the morning; we hope, more than anything, for more.”

To me, this paragraph–in so few words–speaks to the human condition more than anything I’ve ever read. It’s hard. We lose friends and relationships and have difficulty finding our calling or our life’s passion. But then there are evenings when you look around the table at friends you haven’t seen for ten years and smile, or you bite into the perfectly crisp apple–or those mornings when a hot shower feels like a gift from the Gods. Those are the simple, ordinary moments that give us a gleam that hope is justified. So along with all of your fabulous meal suggestions, I’m going to seek out these moments like nothing else right now–the hours that give a glint (or a full on beam) of hope and light. And spring, sunshine in San Francisco, and asparagus in the markets helps, too. So onward, shall we?

It was a rather indulgent Easter week, so at the market yesterday I made a point to stock up on lots of kale, spinach, an unusually expensive artichoke (what the heck, Whole Foods?!) and some beautiful asparagus. At home, I consulted a new cookbook sent to me by the good folks at Southern Living for something interesting to do with the asparagus. The book is called Farmer’s Market Cookbook: a Fresh Look at Local Flavor,  and it details seasonal, ingredient, market-driven recipes. I turned to the spring chapter and was struck by the simplicity of this soup: asparagus, broth, onion, lemon, thyme, milk, a little butter and sour cream. Spring in a bowl. I think you’ll like it.

Spring Asparagus Soup

Spring Asparagus Soup

  • Yield: 4-6 Servings
  • Prep time: 15 mins
  • Cook time: 20 mins
  • Total time: 35 mins

Only make this soup when you can find really fresh, tender asparagus–nothing good about stringy asparagus soup. I adapted this recipe to make it lighter and wholly vegetarian, and added a bit more flavor with garlic, more lemon, and a dash of black pepper.

Adapted from: Southern Living Farmer’s Market Cookbook

Ingredients

1 lb. fresh asparagus
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3/4 tsp. fresh thyme, divided
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 cups 1% low-fat milk
1 tsp. butter
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
3/4 tsp. lemon zest, divided
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Garnish: fresh thyme sprig

Instructions

Snap off and discard tough ends of asparagus. Cut asparagus into 2-inch pieces. Combine asparagus with broth, onion, garlic, and 1/2 tsp. thyme in a large saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer 10 minutes. Process asparagus mixture in batches using an immersion blender or food processor until smooth. Return to pan.

Whisk flour and milk together in a small bowl until smooth. Add slowly to asparagus mixture, whisking until blended. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer, continuing to stir for another five minutes. Remove from heat; stir in butter, salt, 1/4 tsp. lemon zest, and remaining 1/4 tsp. thyme.

Combine sour cream, lemon juice, and remaining 1/4 tsp. lemon zest. Top each serving with about 2 tsp. of sour cream mixture. Garnish with thyme sprig.

Comments

  1. Shannalee

    Mmmm. This looks absolutely beautiful and so totally spring! Here's to enjoying everyday blessings, both the kind we can eat like creamy green soups and the kind of smiles, conversations and beautiful blue skies. Thinking of you, blog friend!

  2. Danielle

    This is such a beautiful post and that quote, so poignant in its truth. Very apt for spring!

  3. Dana

    Yum! That looks so good.

    ...And it's green! I love to make green food that's tasty (my brother claims that it's an impossibility, but I keep proving him wrong).

  4. Jacqui

    what a lovely post, and i can't think of a more perfect dish with which to move onward than asparagus -- so green, so spring, so alive.

    also, that is a beautiful quote. i can't help but think of my fiance's grandmother, who died earlier this week. even though she will be missed, it is still good to know that her memory lives on in her family, with many weddings and new babies in the coming year, and hope -- always hope!

  5. Valen

    I love asparagus and this soup looks delightful!

  6. MomGordon

    Sitting, alright, lying here with the head cold you in all likelihood gave me... After reading this wonderful post I can't help but feel a little bit better. Beautiful!

  7. El

    Lovely sentiment and beautiful soup. Ads are ok too.

  8. Lisa

    I love that quote. It is those brief moments when all the hum drum hours are erased and we find a little joy. I found some today in a bite from an artisanal chocolate bar.

  9. A Canadian Foodie

    Love that you are using your breadstick crackers as a garnish. Nothing is better than asparagus anything in the spring. It is sucha strong flavour, yet I love it. My grandmother used to grow it and let it go to seed. It was so high above my head and I used to love playing in it. I loved it raw, too, as it tasted like fresh peas. I haven't seen in grown anywhere since. But, every time I buy my first fresh bundle in the spring, I always think of my grandmother.

  10. Romaine

    Love your photography!

    I felt exactly the same way about ads but recently went the same direction you have. Will be interesting to see how things go. Not planning an exotic vacation anytime soon. :-)

  11. Janet

    Beautiful quote - thanks for sharing it! I must make this soup! Oh, I love when asparagus is in season.

  12. kathy

    I love asparagus.Gotta try this recipe of yours. I have been cooking this, collecting different recipes of this soup.

  13. Heather Antonelli

    I just re-watched The Hours a few weeks back and that quote is read by Nicole Kidman. It struck me as well and yes we can all relate to those little happy moments when the world seems bright shiny and perfect. I get a little butterfly in my stomach when this happens and a small cheshire cat grin. I have started a happy moments wall in my kitchen. 3x5 frames filled with a picture, a doodle, a napkin from a restaurant - little things that all are memories of happy moments.
    Thank you for sharing the moment.

    1. megang

      I love this idea, Heather. I need a happy moments wall, too. I actually have some wall space in the hallway I've been trying to figure out what to do with...this could just be the ticket. Thanks for the inspiration!

  14. Talia

    Your soup looks beautiful: and your photographs are lovely. We are doing an asparagus 'roundup' as part of a seasonal cooking monthly feature which we'd love you to participate in? have a look and let us know!! http://innbrooklyn.wordpress.com/2010/04/05/virtual-veg-of-the-month-club/

  15. kamran siddiqi

    Megan, this time of the year, we always have a plethora of asparagus! We can't help but loving it so much, but sometimes roasting it 3 nights in a row can be annoying.

    I love how you made it into a simple and delicious soup. I will definitely have to give this a go!

    Great post! :)

  16. Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite

    We have a bit of a glut of asparagus in our fridge right now and this looks like it might just be the perfect way to use it up! Lovely recipe. And of course we don't mind re: the ads. Though I have yet to make any "real" money yet....

  17. Manggy

    That is a great passage... All I got is something from the Simpsons :P (Something like "You were loved once, that means it can happen again..") :) Cream of Asparagus soup has always been a favorite of mine - since childhood, if you can believe me!

  18. A Canadian Foodie

    I made your cheese straws - but with a twist... changed the kind and amount of cheese, so I could roll them in my hand... not cookie press. The taste amazing - I used apple smoked cheddar - and did the sesame seeds. I was really surprised that the seeds STILL fell off after hand rolling and then rolling them in the seeds. Next time, I would do a little egg wash before rolling them in the seeds. Thanks for the inspiration and recipe! They are delicious, easy to make and so much more nutritious than anything in the stores!
    Big hug,
    Valere

    1. megang

      Yay! Awesome. I'm so glad you liked them. Yes, those darn sesame seeds don't love to cling on. do they? I was shocked at how few ingredients were in them. I'll have to try them again and play around with the cheeses, too.

  19. Denise

    Its almost one in the morning here in london, and i am just so enchanted by your writing, cooking, heart ache, loves and beauty. You have created a wonderful thing here, and still keeping it sensitive. Thank you. x

    1. megang

      Oh, thank you Denise! It means a lot to hear from readers that are enjoying the site (and staying up until 1 a.m. reading it).

Join the Discussion

Seasonal Selections

Summer in September

Summer in September

My good friend Keena was working in India for the last few months and just returned to Seattle, eager to experience as much Pacific Northwest summer as possible in September. I'm with her on this one: It just so happens that towards the end of this month, the farmers markets I've been doing will also come to an end, so things seem like they're both simultaneously gearing up (hike! picnic! beach!) and wrapping up at the same time as I also feel a sense of wanting to cram in as much as I can before the days start getting noticeably shorter. And truly: there's no better recipe to commemorate such efforts than these fresh corn grits with oil-poached summer tomatoes.

Read More
Yogurt Crepes with Berries and Yogurt Whipped Cream

Yogurt Crepes with Berries and Yogurt Whipped Cream

For many years, I've always made a summer to-do list. I usually set to work on it right at the beginning of June when the days feel long and ripe with possibility. The list often involves things like learning to bake sourdough bread or making homemade ricotta, doing an epic hike I'd read about in a local magazine, training for a marathon, or reading specific novels. It is always a pretty aspirational list, and I generally don't make much of a dent in it -- resulting in the guilty feeling come late August that I'd wasted too many lazy afternoons when I could've been baking sourdough or making ricotta or doing memorable, epic hikes. But this summer is going to be a bit different: there will be no list. We wait so long in Seattle for long stretches of sunny days, and now that it stays late until 9:30 (or later?), I want to see more of our friends and find stretches of time to do not much of anything except catch up, tan our legs and eat farmers market berries. That's my list.

Read More
Sara’s Peach Derby Ice Cream

Sara’s Peach Derby Ice Cream

I received The Sprouted Kitchen Bowl + Spoon cookbook in the mail not long before we moved to our new house, and I remember lying in bed and bookmarking pages I was excited to try but also feeling overwhelmed with where to start: the truth is that this summer has been a relatively low-inspiration / low energy time in the kitchen for me. I'd been chalking it up to pregnancy but when I think back and if I'm honest with myself, my cooking style tends to be very easy and produce-driven during these warmer months. I rarely break out complicated recipes, instead relying on fresh tomatoes and corn or zucchini and homemade pesto to guide me. But last night I cracked open Sara's book and pulled out a few peaches I've had sitting on the counter, fearing their season may be nearing its end. This morning as I was making coffee, I sliced up the peaches, toasted the pecans and churned away -- having a bite (or maybe two) before getting it into the freezer to firm up. 

Read More
Confetti Quinoa Salad

Confetti Quinoa Salad

We just returned from my mom's cabin on Lake George in upstate New York where we often spend the 4th of July. As usual, each bedroom was packed with family members (this year the couch was even occupied for a night), and our days with reading, lounging on the dock, swimming a bit, maybe jogging down the road or playing tennis if you were feeling ambitious. We drank a notable amount of seltzer water; I managed to read three books and my mom threw us a family baby shower complete with balloons, chocolate cake and Mike's rhubarb bars. In previous years, my mom has planned most of the dinners and  even some lunches, but for breakfast we'd all fend for ourselves. I'd often bake a pie or a batch of brownies in the afternoon and everyone would help out where they could, but she would largely do the shopping and brunt of the cooking. This year was different: having just moved from California to Vermont, my mom had a lot on her plate and sent out an email before the holiday weekend asking us all to chip in and help with the meals. Sam and I claimed Friday dinner: we grilled sausages and Sam made his famous deviled eggs. We cut up some unusually seedy watermelon that I found at the co-op in Burlington before we drove out to the lake, and I made a summery quinoa salad that I expected to be kind of epic. The trouble was that it wasn't. I overcooked the quinoa until it was kind of a congealed mush and everything just went downhill from there. But I knew that the idea was strong -- to pack a whole grain salad with all the things of summer (corn! tomatoes! basil!) -- so when we got home to Seattle I tried again. And this time it's a winner.

Read More