The scoop on spring soups

Kate Lawson
The Detroit News

The best cooking advice I ever got from my mother was to never put away the soup pot. Soup is not stuck in a season.

In the winter, we seek hearty, meaty and comforting bowls of steaming stew. In the summer, we put the bowls in the fridge to chill and fill with fresh, often raw potages to soothe and cool. But spring is a different kettle of broth as the soups we make tend to bridge the gap between seasons; leaving the root vegetables behind and filling our bowls with bright, tender greens.

These days I’m embracing the bounty of fresh vegetables I’m seeing in the markets: stalks of bright, green asparagus, spring peas, fennel, artichokes, spring onions and loads of lemons. These seasonal gifts from Mother Nature serve not only to delight our appetites after a winter of heavy dishes but can also warm us when March and April decide to display their brutal sides. The days may be longer and warmer, but a chill still lingers; a pot of soup on the burner is a great antidote to a dreary, rainy day.

So, as we switch seasons, don’t put away the soup pot along with those mittens and coats, these easy, beautiful, and flavorful soups made from the best of what spring has to offer are the perfect escape from a wet and dreary day. Not to mention they can deliciously help lighten the weight packed on during winter.

Kate Lawson is the retired Detroit News food writer. Reach her at

Spring Pea Soup with Ham

Recipe adapted from Food & Wine

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 small fennel bulb — thick stalk discarded, bulb thinly sliced

1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, chopped

Kosher salt

1 quart whole milk

4 cups fresh or frozen peas (1 pound), thawed

1/2 cup diced smoked ham hock (from one 11-ounce ham hock) or smoky ham

1 tablespoon minced shallot

1/2 tablespoon chopped chives

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon sherry vinegar

Pea tendrils or baby arugula, for garnish

In a large pot, melt the butter. Add the fennel, onion and garlic and season with salt. Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the vegetables are tender, but not browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the milk and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the peas and simmer until tender, 7 to 8 minutes.

Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender. Strain it through a fine sieve set over a large bowl. Season with salt.

In a small bowl, combine the ham with the shallot, chives, olive oil and sherry vinegar. Spoon the ham salad into the center of 4 bowls. Ladle the warm soup into the bowls, garnish with the pea tendrils and serve immediately.

Spinach with White Beans

Recipe adapted from

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 small onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup dry white wine

32 ounces low-sodium vegetable stock

1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup sliced zucchini, cut into half moons

2 cups peas

3 cups baby spinach, washed and dried

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

In a large pot, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Cook garlic and onion, stirring with a wooden spoon, 2 minutes. Add carrots, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper; cook 2 minutes more. Add white wine and stock, bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Mix in cannellini beans and zucchini; simmer until vegetables are tender, 5 minutes.

Just before serving, add peas, fresh spinach, and parmesan. Stir until warmed through and spinach is wilted. Serve in soup bowls and top with black pepper. Serves 6,

Creamy Asparagus

and Pea Soup

Recipe adapted from Whole Foods

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 large onion, diced

2 celery stalks, thinly sliced

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 large (1-pound) bunch asparagus, trimmed, 2 stalks reserved whole for garnish, the remainder sliced

2 cups green peas, fresh or frozen

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill

In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, celery and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables soften, 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in 5 cups water, sliced asparagus and peas. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer until asparagus is very tender, about 15 minutes.

Working in small batches, purée soup in a blender. Strain the soup through a sieve, pressing down on any solids with the back of a spoon to remove as much liquid as possible. Pour it back into the pot. Place over medium heat until just simmering. Stir in salt and lemon juice.

Run a vegetable peeler over the reserved asparagus stalks, making asparagus ribbons. Ladle the soup into bowls and drizzle the top of each with a little cream, if using. Top with a few sprinkles of fresh dill. Serves 6.

Lemon Soup with Chicken and Israeli Couscous

Recipe adapted from

2 cups water

4 cups chicken broth

6 large egg yolks

3 cups shredded chicken (rotisserie chicken works well)

1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

2 cups cooked Israeli couscous (measure after cooking)

Mint leaves, or any other small herb for garnish

Lemon wedges for garnish

Heat the water and broth to a boil in a soup pot.

Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl.

Take a cup of the hot stock and slowly drizzle it into the egg yolks, while you are continuously whisking. This will ‘temper’ the eggs so they won’t scramble when they mix with the hot soup.

Then, with the heat lowered to medium, slowly whisk the eggs into the soup in the pot, whisking or stirring the whole time.

Cook the soup over medium for about 5 minutes, stirring the whole time.

Add the chicken, lemon juice, and the couscous and stir to heat through. Salt to taste.

Serve with a sprig of mint and a good grinding of black pepper. I also like to serve lemon wedges alongside, so you can get an extra burst of lemon flavor, if you like. Serves 6.

Sweet Potato Coconut Soup with Thai Curry

Recipe adapted from Food & Wine

3 tablespoons organic coconut oil

2 onions (1 pound), chopped

2 medium green bell peppers, chopped

2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

One 15-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Toasted unsweetened coconut and cilantro sprigs, for garnish

In a large saucepan, heat the coconut oil. Add the onions and peppers and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, 10 minutes. Add the curry paste and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the sweet potatoes and 2 quarts of water and bring to a simmer. Cook until the sweet potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the coconut milk and lime juice.

In batches, puree the soup until smooth. Serve hot, garnished with coconut flakes and cilantro sprigs. Serves 8.

Cream of Artichoke Soup

Recipe adapted from Saveur

2 tablespoons butter

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 pounds frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and roughly chopped

3 cups chicken stock

2 cups heavy cream

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Lemon wedges, for serving

Heat butter in 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add artichokes; cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add stock; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until artichokes are very tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer stock and vegetables to a blender; puree until smooth. Return to saucepan, add cream, and bring to a simmer over medium heat; cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by a third, about 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and serve with lemon wedges on the side. Serves 6.