This is a soup for people who are scared to make soup. It's dead simple to make but with enough flavor to keep your guests guessing which cookbook you got it from. Don't use a dark-colored stock, which will ruin the wonderful color of the soup. You can serve this hot or cold, but if you are serving it cold, add a little more salt; the cold deadens the taste buds a bit. Makes: 4 servings 1 quart vegetable or chicken stock 2 bunches asparagus, roughly chopped (remove and reserve woody stems) 1 stalk of celery, sliced thinly 1 bunch scallions 5 cloves garlic 1/4 fresh nutmeg (or 1/8 teaspoon powdered) 1 ounce of butter sour cream for garnish salt and pepper to taste Bring a stock pot filled with the stock to a boil. Add the woody stems and turn down the heat to medium. Simmer stems for 20-30 minutes to infuse the stock with asparagus flavor. Take the stems out of the stock with a slotted spoon. Cut the tips off of the asparagus. Slice the tips thinly and reserve as a garnish. Melt butter over medium heat, then add scallions, garlic, celery. Add a pinch of salt and sweat the vegetables over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Add stock, nutmeg and asparagus and cook for 20 minutes. In a blender, puree soup until smooth. Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. Serve in a bowl with a dollop of sour cream and the reserved asparagus tips as garnish. Tip: To Make this soup a main course, just follow my motto for this summer and "put an egg on it." The egg, poached or fried, adds richness and texture without taking away from the soup.
Photo and styling by John Houser III, Special to The Baltimore Sun