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Asparagus Parsnip Soup with Dill and Pine Cone-Smoked Olive Oil

This soup is light, light, light, but the parsnip gives body, and together with the asparagus and celery yields a lovely, complex flavor. Add the pine cone-smoked olive oil and, oh my! Somehow, someone has hit upon a method for gently smoking the extra virgin olive oil with pine cones without exposing it to heat, light or air, any one of which can degrade olive oil. It’s the stuff of dreams…

Makes 4-6 servings

2 bunches asparagus (about 2¼ pounds)

6 C water

3 Tbsp smoked extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp good salt

2 medium yellow onions, chopped, about 3 C

1 tsp black pepper or Grains of Paradise

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 more Tbsp smoked extra virgin olive oil

½ C minced celery

more dill as garnish (as much as you like!)

1 C minced parsnip

1 Tbsp lemon juice, optional

1 Tbsp fresh dill weed (or 2 tsp dried)

 

 

In a soup pot, gently warm smoked olive oil. [Amanda, our former head chef, always said it smelled like bacon.] Add onions, garlic, celery and parsnip. Sauté until onions are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir from time to time. In the meantime, cut the tips off of the asparagus spears and set aside. Cut the remaining spears into 1-inch pieces. Add the chopped asparagus (except for the tips) to the pot, along with the water, salt, pepper (or Grains of Paradise) and dill. Bring to a boil, turn heat to low, cover pot and simmer about 10 minutes, until vegetables are tender.

Using another small pot, bring a cup of water to a boil. Add reserved asparagus tips and simmer for a few minutes until tender-crisp. Drain and refresh under cold water or in an ice bath. Set aside. (Our kitchen tosses the tips with more smoked olive oil and roasts them in a 350-degree oven.)

Purée the soup with a blender or a food processor (my Vitamix renders this velvety in a few seconds). You’ll need, of course, to blend in two or three batches so your machine doesn’t flow over with soup! As you blend, return each batch to a new, waiting pot. Bring soup back to a simmer. Stir in the additional smoked olive oil. Taste and adjust seasonings, add lemon juice if you like. Ladle soup into bowls, then top each bowl with the reserved asparagus tips, more dill and another grinding of pepper if desired.

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