The warmer weather is rolling in, the flowers are blooming, the trees are turning green, and–best of all–the farmers’ markets and grocery stores are filing up with more and more fresh produce options. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy the apples, pears, and squash that are prevalent throughout fall and winter. It’s just that, by the time spring rolls around, I’m more than ready for something different.
This chowder showcased spring’s first asparagus beautifully. It was hearty, but not heavy. It had a sweetness, but it was cut perfectly by the herbes de Provence. I happily ate this chowder with a glass of white wine and a couple slices of whole wheat baguette. Hooray spring!
Roasted Asparagus and Shrimp Chowder
10 large asparagus spears, tough ends removed (I used more)
20 large shrimp (about 1 lb. total), peeled and deveined
2 tsp. olive oil
1 small fennel bulb
1 leek, including 2 inches of green, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tsp. herbes de Provence
3 c. vegetable broth
1 russet potato, unpeeled, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 c. fat-free evaporated skimmed milk
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1. Preheat an oven to 425°F. Place the asparagus and the shrimp on a baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil. Toss to coat them with the oil and then spread out in a single layer.
2. Roast until the shrimp turn pink and opaque, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Turn the asparagus over and continue to roast until just tender, about 8 minutes more. Remove from the oven and, when cool enough to handle, cut into 1-inch lengths.
3. Meanwhile, cut off the stems, feathery tops and any bruised outer stalks from the fennel bulb. Reserve the tops. Cut away and discard the core, then chop the bulb; set aside.
4. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Coat the pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the fennel, leek, red pepper and herbes de Provence and sauté until the vegetables are just beginning to soften, about 4 minutes.
5. Add the stock and potato and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, until the fennel is tender, about 15 minutes.
6. Pour in the milk and bring the soup back to a simmer. Add the shrimp and asparagus and stir until heated through. Season with salt and pepper.
7. Ladle into warmed bowls. Garnish each serving with the reserved fennel tops. Serve hot. Serves six as an appetizer or four as a main course.