It’s that fabulous time of year again where fresh, local produce is available to us at roadside farms, the market, some grocery stores and even our own backyards. There is a great little local farm between Ayr and Kitchener that is known for its asparagus, Barrie’s Asparagus (http://www.barriesasparagus.com/). They have the most delicious asparagus I’ve ever eaten, hands down. For the past two weeks or so, we’ve been eating asparagus like crazy over here (try it grilled on the barbecue, so easy and yummy). I popped in there yesterday with the kids to grab a few pounds of the good stuff so I could make some soup today. My in-laws were down over the weekend as well, and my mother-in-law brought us a ton of rhubarb from her garden, so I needed a recipe to turn it into something delicious (I’m not a huge rhubarb fan in general, but Darren likes it).
Last week a dear friend of mine gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Nora, and so I wanted to drop some delicious things off on their porch. There was nothing I appreciated more when we got home with Hunter than meals and baked goods delivered. Hunter was very cooperative this morning and slept in until almost 10AM after his early morning feed, so I had plenty of time in the kitchen to play around. I ended up making a batch of Cream of Asparagus soup and a Buttermilk Rhubarb cake. Perfect to deliver to my friend and probably enough for dinner tonight!
The soup is so easy. I don’t even have a recipe for it, as I sort of made it up as I went. But I will give you the step-by-step for it.
I started off by snapping my asparagus stalks into small pieces and setting aside the asparagus tips.
Snap the asparagus spears into small pieces
Set aside the tips
In a large pot, bring the asparagus pieces to a boil in chicken stock (can use just water, but the stock gives it more flavour).
At this point, I realized that I didn’t put any onion in. So I quickly diced up half of a vidalia onion and tossed it into the boiling pot. What I would do next time, is fry up the onion in a bit of butter in the empty soup pot before adding the stock and asparagus, but it worked out this way too.
Tossed in some onion
I let this boil for about 30-45 minutes to make sure that everything was nice and tender. Then I added in about a 1/2 cup (that’s all I had left) of sour cream.
Adding sour cream
After I stirred in the sour cream, I got out the immersion blender and blended this up until it was nice and creamy.
Blending it until smooth
Once the soup was smooth, I then added salt and pepper to taste and added the asparagus tips that I had set aside earlier, in.
Seasoned to taste, and asparagus tips added
I let this cook a little bit longer to meld all of the flavours together and so the asparagus tips softened up a little bit. You could just boil the tips and blend them up with the rest of the asparagus, but I find that adding them in at the end, puts a bit of texture and prettiness back into the soup.
I let the soup cool and then poured it into 1L mason jars so it was ready for delivery!
Ready to be delivered
So once the soup was done, I needed to do something with my rhubarb. Like I said earlier, I’m not at all a fan of rhubarb, but this Buttermilk Rhubarb cake, might make me a convert. It was quick and easy and turned out delicious.
First, chop up your rhubarb into bite sized pieces and toss with 3 tablespoons of white sugar. Set this aside.
Next, whip up room temperature butter until it is nice and fluffy.
Add sugar and continue beating.
Add vanilla and eggs and beat again.
At this point, you are done with the beaters. The rest will be mixed by hand so that your batter does not become overmixed.
At this point, you’re supposed to mix up the dry ingredients separately before adding them to the wet ingredients. I’m lazy. I don’t ever do this, and it usually works out okay. If you add your baking powder/baking soda first and make sure it is really mixed in, you’ll avoid any clumps which mixing them separately essentially does.
Next you need to alternate adding the flour and the buttermilk. I didn’t have buttermilk on hand, but you can make your own by adding a splash of vinegar to the amount of milk that you need.
Faking the buttermilk
So, add your flour and buttermilk, slowly alternating between each while you mix by hand.
Once the batter is all mixed up. Add your sugared rhubarb and fold it in.
The batter will be fairly thick. Pour the batter into a greased 8×8 baking pan. You may need to spread it with a spatula.
Now, you make the crumb topping. Mix room temperature butter with flour, sugar, and cinnamon. I use way more than the called for amount of cinnamon because I like the extra spice. This mixture will become crumbly.
Sprinkle this crumbly mixture evenly over the top of the batter.
Place the baking pan in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes (check with a toothpick for doneness, as I needed to give it a bit longer). The edges should be a bit browned.
Now, I made one of these for us too, just so I could quality control. I was surprised by how yummy it was, you couldn’t even tell it was rhubarb! It may even change a good friend of mine’s opinion on rhubarb (http://toughbananasblog.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/rhubarb-its-time-to-end-the-conspiracy/).
1 1/2 cups chopped rhubarb (small bite-sized)
3 tbsp sugar
2/3 cup butter at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk
For the Topping:
1/3 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar (white)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Spray an 8 inch square pan with non-stick spray and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the chopped rhubarb in a small bowl and toss with 3 tbsp sugar, set aside. In large mixing bowl, cream butter and (second amount of) sugar and beat in eggs one at a time, then add vanilla (you could do this part with an electric mixer if you want to, but do the rest by hand so the batter does not get over-mixed). In another bowl, mix all remaining dry ingredients together and add to the butter/sugar/egg mixture alternately with the buttermilk, mixing just until combined. Fold in the sugared rhubarb and scrape the batter into prepared pan, smoothing top somewhat. Mix the topping ingredients together by hand until big crumbles form and scatter them evenly over the batter. Bake cake at 350 for 45 minutes or until done in the center.