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A Unique Pearing 

A pear and asparagus soup melds late winter and early spring produce

click to enlarge juice-1.jpg

The shifting seasons can inspire creative twists on recipes. Local late winter and early spring produce is available, allowing flavor combinations you cannot find fresh at any other time. In this asparagus soup, a winter fruit and a spring vegetable herald the season's transition.

  Along with a host of vitamins, asparagus also contains chromium, a mineral often used in weight loss supplements. Pears and their juice — a low-allergen food with a hefty dose of vitamin C — often are the first fruits and juices fed to infants.

  This simple, nuanced soup is ideal for light lunches, picnics, brunches or to round out a delicate meal. Aside from spices and salts, it contains only four ingredients. Fewer ingredients used multiple ways make for more complex preparation techniques. Because so few ingredients are used, the quality of each is important.

Pear Asparagus Soup

Recipe by Russ Lane. Serves 2-3.

1 bunch asparagus

1 pear, quartered (Taylor's Gold or Bosc recommended), stem and seeds removed

1/2 clove garlic, finely chopped and crushed into a paste

1/8 cup Balsamic Vinegar

Pinch each rosemary and curry powder

Salt and white pepper to taste

Prepare: Remove woody bottoms from asparagus and discard, then trim their tips and reserve. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the tough outer layer of the remaining stalks and save the shavings for another use.

  Dice peeled asparagus stalks to 1/2-1/4 inch dice. Dice three-quarters of the pear to a similar size. Slice the pear's remaining quarter to about the size of the asparagus tips. Finely dice the garlic and smear it on the cutting board with the edge of the knife, or crush into a paste with a mortar and pestle.

Make soup base: Boil water in a small saucepan and add asparagus tips, boiling until bright green, about 2 minutes. Remove asparagus with a slotted spoon and run under cold water to cool. Set tips aside. Reduce heat to simmer and cook diced asparagus stalks and pear for 8-10 minutes or until asparagus is easily pierced with a fork. Pour asparagus, pear and cooking water into a blender or bowl and let cool.

Garnish: While the asparagus/pear mixture cools, clean out the saucepan and combine vinegar, rosemary and curry powder, stirring over medium-low heat. Add pear slices and cook, stirring occasionally, until vinegar evaporates and reduces to glaze the pear.

Finishing touches: In a blender or food processor, blend cooled asparagus/pear/water until frothy and smooth. Pour into bowls or refrigerate for later use. Garnish with asparagus tips and glazed pear. Add salt and white pepper to taste.

  Serve at room temperature.

Per serving: calories, 83; total fat, 0.1 g; cholesterol, 0 mg; sodium, 5.3 mg; potassium, 137 mg; total carbohydrate 19.8 g (dietary fiber, 2.8 g, sugars 8.6 g); protein, 2.4 g

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