Every now and then you come across a cookbook and you know by the end of the year the pages will be lovingly spotted with random ingredients. This due to an extended time of it being open in the kitchen.
I’ve found that cookbook, and the only exception is that the pages of this one will likely be filled with smudges from dirty thumbs as well; dirty thumbs that have been hard at work in the garden.
I received a copy of The Complete Kitchen Garden by Ellen Ecker Ogden on Friday. Saturday I sat down and read it from cover to cover, all 250 pages. I can’t remember the last time I’ve done that with a book. This cookbook-slash-garden-guide is a beautiful balance of helpful gardening tips and fabulous recipes utilizing fresh, seasonal foods.
In it are plans and tips for 14 distinct gardens from The Salad Lover’s Garden to The Family Garden. What I like about this book is its simplicity. The tips are straightforward which prevent the reader from having to do a lot of searching for information that can be applied.
Last year was our first year of having a large garden, and despite the fact that we had decent success (with much help from my dad), I still find myself confused regarding what I did right and what I could improve on.
After reading this book, I have a much better grasp of what foods I should plant from seed and which I should start from plants. I also have all kinds of ideas of how to lay out our garden this year to make it more accessible and productive. The pictures and sketched garden plans in this book make everything come to life.
Now, about those recipes. It is impossible to pick a favorite. I cannot wait for garden and farmer’s market season so that I can make them all! Well, okay, except for the ones with beets, but that is just because I don’t like beets.
Rainbow Chard Enchiladas, Lemon Ricotta Fritters with Lavender Honey, Braised Winter Greens with Coconut and Curry, and Arugula and Mint Thai Soup are just a few of the 100 seasonal recipes the book features. And oh, the salad dressings! All kinds of delicious dressings to complement fresh greens can be found. There’s a good chance I’ll be making all of the dressings this summer.
So after reading all this I know you can’t wait to see which recipe I got to try out. How about Asparagus Soup with Coconut Lemon Crème?
The author describes this soup as:
The first tender spears of asparagus are best enjoyed fresh and whole from the garden, but as the season progresses, the stalks get larger, and the crop more abundant, this is an excellent soup to prepare. Its light, lemony flavors blended with a hint of curry are delicious served warm or chilled, and topped with crème fraiche.
I didn’t have any crème fraiche nor the ingredients to make my own, so I substituted plain Greek yogurt. It too went wonderfully with the soup. As simple as the ingredients are, I found the soup to have such complex flavors between the asparagus, potatoes, coconut milk, curry and lemon. It is warming and perfect for a cool spring day while also being refreshing.
Be generous with the lemon. I found it really brought out the flavors of both the coconut milk and the asparagus.
Asparagus Soup with Coconut Lemon Crème
Reprinted with permission from Abrams Books
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
12 to 18 asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch lengths (2 cups)
4 medium red-skinned potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice (2 cups)
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup (8-ounce can) coconut milk
½ teaspoon curry powder
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 cup crème fraiche
Scallions or chives, finely chopped, to taste
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter and oil. Add the onion and salt and sauté stirring often, until the onion is golden, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the curry powder, ginger, and half of the lemon zest and juice. Then add the potatoes and simmer, stirring occasionally, to blend the flavors, about 5 minutes.
Slowly add the broth, coconut milk, and asparagus and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover partially and continue to cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
With an immersion blender, or in a food processor, puree the mixture until smooth. In a small bowl, blend the crème fraiche, remaining lemon zest and juice, scallions or chives, and salt and pepper.
Serve the soup warm, garnished with a swirl of the seasoned crème fraiche. Serves 4 to 6.
Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was sent to me by Abram Books. I was under no obligation to write about it and received no compensation for doing so.