Friday, March 16, 2018

Pea and Asparagus Soup

A few months ago I attended an event at the New England Mobile Bookfair in Newton Highlands (Massachusetts), where a good number of mystery writers and fans gathered to check out new books (and party). Three of the authors, Ryan Conroy and Todd and Jen Heberlein, hailed from Volante Farms in Needham, and arrived with copies of their new book, the Volante Farms Cookbook: A Century of Growing. The Volante family, immigrants from Italy, founded the farm in 1917 and now the fourth generation carries on the tradition of growing produce for local markets.

I didn’t get around to delving into the book until recently. As I write this, we in southern Massachusetts are in the midst of our third nor’easter in two weeks, despite the fact that the calendar says March, and I wanted something that announced “spring!”. Luckily the cookbook is arranged seasonally, and one of the first recipes is for Pea and Asparagus Soup. I wish I could tell you that I had found new peas and asparagus in our market, but it’s still a wee bit early for both—but I did have the asparagus. And there are some lovely and unexpected flavors that brighten the soup.

Our most recent snow (March 13th)



2 shallots, chopped
1 pounds peas (fresh if you have them)
2 quarts chicken stock
2 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tblsp salted butter
2 lbs. asparagus trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup crème fraiche
1 Tblsp chopped tarragon (again, fresh if you have it)
1 tsp grated lemon zest


Shallots, chopped
Chop the shallots.

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and saute briefly until soft.

Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and add the asparagus, peas and a pinch of salt and pepper. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes, and remove from heat.

Puree the soup in the pot with an immersion blender (if you don’t have one, use a traditional blender or a food processor, if all the liquid will fit--if not, do it in a couple of batches). (Note: asparagus, even fresh and new, is a bit stringy, so you may have to clean your blades a time or two, whatever you use. The soup with never be a smooth puree, but the veggies add a little texture.) Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.

Combine the crème fraiche, tarragon and lemon zest. Pour the soup into individual bowls and top with a dollop of the crème mixture.

Serve with an interesting bread. And welcome to Spring!

I just realized that among all the books I'm in the midst of writing, they cover almost all the seasons. I just finished the next Relatively Dead book (still nameless), which takes place in November. Coming next is Murder in the Mansion, the start of a new series that is set in Maryland, and there it's early summer. There will be a new Orchard Mystery in the Fall, set in early spring when the annual apple cycle begins. A Christmas novella will of course be set around Christmas. 

Do you think it would be easier if I wrote these is some sort of calendar order? Sometimes it's hard to remember that a character should put on a coat before walking out the door, or that school is out for the summer.


  1. That cover of Murder at the Mansion is really handsome.
    This soup sounds wonderfully tasty and filled with hope.

  2. Looks wonderful. I seriously do not know how you can keep the seasons you are writing straight, but thankfully for us you do!