Asparagus Soup with Cambozola Toasts

The bold blue flavor of Classic Cambozola punches up the mild, earthy flavor of asparagus without stealing the show.

Take advantage of fresh asparagus while you can, as they are a short-lived treat, from their short season, short storage life, and cooking time. Here their skinny stalks will be boiled up and pureed with pea shoots and fresh mint, and balanced with a Cambozola melt.

Asparagus Soup with Cambozola Toasts

3 bunches of skinny asparagus (approx. 2.5-3 lbs)
Two shallots,roughly chopped
I large white potato, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
2T butter
1/4 cup pea shoots, plus more for garnish
4 large mint leaves, finely chopped
5 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
pinch of salt and pepper, or to taste
4 oz. Cambozola
1 fresh baguette

Melt butter in large pot and add in the chopped shallots and potato.

While the butter foams and the shallots begin to soften, prep the asparagus. Cut the thick ends off and toss them (be generous–I cut a good 2 inches off. Better to be safe than sorry—you do not want fibrous end pieces ruining this creamy concoction). Next guillotine those tips (about an inch and a half) and set them aside. Then chop the remaining asparagus into 1-inch lengths and toss them into the pot.

Add in the pea shoots, mint leaves, stock, salt and pepper.

Simmer on medium-low for about 15-20 minutes (depending on how skinny your asparagus stalks were to begin with. Remove the pot from the heat and let cool until it is just warm.

Then purée the soup, either in batches in a blender or with a hand blender. (I prefer the hand-blender— an invaluable tool for those that want to do a one pot soup. Be careful with the hand blender though. You want your pot to be deep enough that when you go to blend it, it doesn’t spray up over the pot— unless you’ve always wanted pea-green wallpaper. Give yourself a generous 4-5 inches between the soup and the top of the pot.) As you blend, you’ll find out if you did have inadvertently toss in any fibrous ends of asparagus. With a hand blender these pieces conveniently get stuck in the blade and can easily be discovered and removed. With an upright, blender you may have a little more difficulty discovery them, so I would put it through a sieve. Either way you spin it, you should have a silky purée back in a pot.

Set it on low heat just to warm it back up. Here’s where you can adjust your seasoning of salt and pepper.

Next bring a separate small pot if water to boil. Prep an ice-water bath. Blanch your asparagus tips in the boiling water (less than a minute on those scrawny ones!) You want them to be bright green in color and still slightly stiff (if they’ve wilted or turned pea green, they’ve gone too far). Fish them out quickly with a slotted spoon and put them directly in the ice water. Gently move them around in the ice water as they’ll tend to keep warm if they’re clumped together. Drain once they are cool, and reserve.

While your soup is heating up, slice 1/2″ thick slices of baguette, on a sharp diagonal. (The longer you can make the slices, the better, I say. It will help you balance the slice across the bowl and not to mention allow for more cheese!) Turn the broiler on.

Cut the Cambozola in 1/8″ slices, the length of the wedge, so you get a long, continuous slice, about the length of your baguette slices and lay the cheese on the bread. You don’t want the cheese to hang over the crust too much or you’ll get too much melt-off when you go to broil it. Keep the rind on, as it not only adds flavor, but keeps the melted goodness in line and from running off as it melts.

Set the baguette slices with cheese on a baking sheet or foil and place them in the broiler for 2-5 minutes depending on the fortitude of your broiler. Now, admittedly, I am forever distrustful of broilers, so I keep an eagle on my toasts. The cheese should just begin to foam along the edges* (remember this is an extra creamy cheese, so it won’t melt like your typical go-to melting cheese like say, gruyere), then remove the pan.

*Make sure your baguette edges don’t get too crisp. A trick I discovered when broiling diagonal toasts is to put each slice on a small sheet of foil and fold the edges of the foil over any crust, thus keeping only the cheese exposed. This will get your cheese melted, but keep your crusts from smoking!

Add all but a dozen asparagus tips back into the soup and give them a stir. Ladle the soup into bowls. Top each bowl with three asparagus tips and a few pea shoots. Lay the cheese toast over the edge of the bowl and serve.