A few months ago, I attended a Grand Round presentation by Dr. Sanford Warren from Santa Rosa Kaiser Permanente on a "plant strong diet". For some with significant cardiovascular issues, he recommended a strict low fat diet without meat or dairy. For most, he simply encouraged eating a plant strong diet as much as possible.
My wife and I talked about his presentation and the clear evidence about the impact on health. We've always been happy to eat vegetable and grain based dishes, but still ate a fair amount of fish, poultry, and cheese (witness the spectacular Blue Cheese Turkey Burgers elsewhere in this blog). But we thought we could give a more plant based diet a try. Early on, we realized that we could find 50 ways to do hundreds of different foods as opposed to trying to find 50 ways to do boneless and skinless chicken breast.
A new world of recipes opened up. It is definitely possible to eat great food without meat or dairy. Just last night we had home cooked black beans with pickled red onions, arugula, radish greens, cilantro, cumin, and cayenne topped with slow roasted tomatoes over brown rice and a salad with Meyer lemon/garlic vinaigrette. We had no idea what the nutritional contents were. We just know that it tasted great. Time? --- I had made the beans and pickled red onions a couple days before for black bean burritos with salsa and the brown rice was easy.
Eating this way allows magic to happen when you visit a farmers market. At the Ordway Building downtown Oakland, Kaiser Permanente has started a all organic farmers market on Wednesdays. The magic this week was seeing that the asparagus farmer was back for this season. I came home with a skinny bunch and a fat bunch --- a total of about two pounds. The search for recipes began. I looked online and through a number cookbooks settling on a modified version of the "Fields of Greens" cookbook asparagus soup.
I was curious to see if I could make a great creamy soup without any dairy. Well, try this. It is definitely possible.
2 pounds asparagus, woody stems broken off , tips of twelve stalks cut off for garnish (as big as looks good to you), and the rest cut into 2 inch pieces
1 medium sized yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 medium baking potato, peeled and diced
4 cups low sodium vegetable stock
Juice of 1/2 orange
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 /2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan and simmer the woody asparagus stems for about 20 mins. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a soup pot and saute the onions until soft adding a pinch of salt and white pepper. Add the potato and 1 cup of the stock. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15 mins. Remove the stems and add to the soup pot the remaining stock and asparagus. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Simmer until the asparagus is tender, about 15 minutes. Puree the soup in a food processor or a blender being certain to take the center out of the top to let the steam escape. Cover this with a kitchen towel to avoid splatters.
Stir in orange juice and season to taste with salt and white pepper.
I was so excited by all of this that I forgot to take a photo until partway through. This soup is worth making.