Veering off the matzah path towards plenty of fresh veggies is an easy way to stay healthy and feel satisfied during the eight days of Passover. I like to serve vegetable soups to take the edge off that inevitable and inexplicable hunger we sometimes feel when we have, uh, matzah belly. Eating plenty of fresh greens takes the cue from one of the Hebrew names for Pesach, Chag Ha’aviv, or spring festival. With symbols of rebirth and new beginnings front and center on the seder plate, consider including green veggies and herbs as often as possible.
Trying to eat seasonally? One of the earliest spring crops is asparagus, a perennial plant that yields for up to 20 years after the plants are established! Asparagus can be picked when they reach a height of 6-8 inches, which syncs with the soil temperature reaching 50 degrees (F). This is why asparagus so often find their way onto early spring menus.
This velvety, bright green asparagus soup is a perfect starter. It comes together in one pot, making it easy to assemble, puree and reheat without adding extra dishes to your load. It owes its creamy texture to cauliflower, but don’t tell anyone. The only flavor it lends is a sweet nuttiness to the distinctive, slightly grassy flavor of these early spring stalks. The soup is dairy-free, gluten free and vegan so you won’t get any pushback from the crowd gathering to celebrate the start of the new season.
Notes: This soup may be made in advance and refrigerated for 2-3 days. It may also be frozen for up to 2-3 weeks. You may use a food processor to puree, but an immersion blender is infinitely less messy and well worth the purchase. Place the pot in the sink to puree so any splatters are contained. Adding herbs at the very end maintains their bright and distinctive flavors.
Creamy Non-Dairy Asparagus Soup
2 bunches asparagus, chopped (woody ends snapped and discarded)
1 small head cauliflower, rinsed and separated into florets
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 large red onion, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
6 cups vegetable broth
4 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped (reserve some for garnish)
1 tsp fresh thyme
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp lemon juice (or more to taste)
¼ cup chopped pistachios (optional)
In a large soup pot, heat olive oil until shimmering. Saute onions until soft. Add garlic and toss for 2-3 minutes.
Add asparagus and cauliflower to same pot. Stir and cook, covered, for 10 minutes.
Add vegetable broth, bring to a boil and immediately reduce to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes or until cauliflower is tender.
Remove from heat and stir in fresh herbs.
Cool soup and puree to velvety texture with an immersion blender.
Add lemon juice and taste, adding salt and pepper to your liking.
Serve: garnished with additional fresh herbs and pistachio halves if desired. This soup is lovely sipped from small cups or spooned from traditional soup bowls.
Pronounced: SAY-der, Origin: Hebrew, literally “order”; usually used to describe the ceremonial meal and telling of the Passover story on the first two nights of Passover. (In Israel, Jews have a seder only on the first night of Passover.)