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  • The Chopping Blog

Your New Favorite Spring Soup

Karen D
Posted by Karen D on Apr 24, 2019


As far as holiday dinners go, I think my favorite is Easter dinner. It wasn’t always that way, though. Back in the day, when my sister bought her first house, Thanksgiving quickly became her holiday dinner of choice. Christmas was always spent at our parents’ home. As far as major holidays went, not including those that are mostly based around the grill, that left me with Easter dinner. I remember thinking at the time that it was kind of “second fiddle”, but our family would all be together and there was so much good in that, so I was determined to make it special. Now that we’re older and living in different states, we still find a way to gather during the Christmas season. And while we sometimes get together for Thanksgiving or Easter, those times are far less frequent, so we’ve both found ourselves making our own traditions for these holidays over the years. Once I started preparing both Thanksgiving and Easter dinners, I realized that, while I truly enjoy doing both, it is for very different reasons – and Easter has indeed become my favorite. It dawned on me the other day that I suppose I didn’t draw the short straw all those years ago, after all!

Easter is Springtime, simple, fresh, and just plain pretty! I love being able to plan a meal that isn’t necessarily about bounty, yet still feels bountiful. I love taking a different look at lamb from year to year (we’ve always been a lamb-on-Easter family). I love the challenge of deciding on the perfect side dishes, as opposed to “all the sides”. I love setting a bright, beautiful table and buying tulips or daffodils that are closed up tightly the day before, but open up like rays of sunshine with the Easter dawn.

Part of my Easter dinner that has become something of a tradition is starting with a simple Spring vegetable soup. Starting with a rich, flavorful broth that can be made ahead, the vegetables are cut into small, ¼-inch dice (the asparagus tips and baby spinach being the exceptions) and added just before serving. The uniformity of the vegetables makes for a simple-but-elegant appearance and since the vegetables aren’t stewing, they remain nice and bright. My goodness, if a soup can be pretty, this one certainly is! I even like to serve it in clear glass bowls just to show it off: I’m not sure if the bowls do the soup justice, or the other way around. Regardless, we enjoyed it once again this past weekend and it didn’t disappoint – so I thought I would share it with you.

While you can certainly go right from making the broth to completing the soup, I can tell you that if you let the broth sit at least overnight, the flavors meld to take it all up a notch. It will keep refrigerated for up to 3 days, and up to 2 months frozen. To get started with the broth you’ll need:

  • 2 medium onions
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 celery rib
  • 1 medium leek
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 3 medium cloves of garlic

You can see that this is a diversion from the standard mirepoix of onion/carrot/celery: the fennel will give the broth a subtle sweetness that adds to the fresh feel of this soup, and the leeks will help soften the onion flavors without overriding them.


Of course, the garlic was late to the party and didn’t make it into the picture! Don’t bother to peel the garlic, you want just the subtlest of garlic flavor here. Simply toss it into a Dutch oven or stock pot – essentially any pot that can easily fit 8 cups of chicken broth, plus vegetables. Go ahead and dice up the vegetables (no need to peel the carrot, either). These don’t have to be precise cuts, as they are going to get strained out. Plunk everything into the pot and give it a good drizzle (about a tablespoon) of a neutral, unflavored oil: canola or grapeseed oil are perfect.


Turn the heat on low and give the vegetables a good stir. Cover the pot and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables have softened. This will take about 8-10 minutes.


Do you see how the vegetables have become soft and  translucent compared to the last picture? Being able to break them with my wooden spoon is also a good sign that they’re done cooking. You don’t need these to caramelize, so don’t wait for them to start to brown.

Once the vegetables are done, add in:

  • 2 quarts (8 cups) chicken broth or stock
  • 4 black peppercorns, crushed
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 or 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 5 or 6 sprigs parsley

You can use homemade or store-bought chicken broth or stock, just be sure it’s low-sodium if it’s store-bought; you want to add your own salt to your own taste later on. I did use store-bought stock since I didn’t have any homemade on hand. (One of these days I swear I will have freezer space for things like this!)


As an aside, I’d like to mention that if you want to make a vegetarian/vegan version of this, I imagine you could use plain water here instead of chicken broth/stock. I don’t think I would go with a prepared “vegetable broth” since that is – essentially! – what you’re making here and you don’t want the flavors to crash into one another. I have not personally done this and would be very interested to know if any of you decide to give it a try – let me know how it turns out.

Bring the broth mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce it to medium-low. Let the broth simmer slowly for about 20-30 minutes. Wow, I wish you could smell and taste this right now! It’s such an amazingly soft aroma and an ever-so-slightly sweet taste from the fennel.

Now strain the broth into a large bowl through the finest sieve you have. I like using my chinois for this job because the mesh is super-fine. Press the vegetable solids in the sieve to get out as much broth as possible. Discard the solids left in the sieve. Because I love the delicate nature of this soup, I actually strain the broth one more time to make it as clear as possible. Instead of dirtying another bowl, just rinse our your stock pot/Dutch oven and re-strain the broth back into it. If you are going to store the broth, let it cool to room temperature first. Then you can ladle it into storage containers and put it in the refrigerator or freezer to use when you’re ready.

Now, onto the soup itself. The actual cook time is only about 15 minutes, so I like to get all my mise en place (ingredient preparation) done ahead of time. You will need:

  • 12 oz red potatoes, scrubbed (about 2 medium potatoes)
  • 2 medium leeks, washed well
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, medium spears
  • 3 oz baby spinach
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 Tablespoons minced fresh tarragon


The spinach can be left whole or roughly chopped. I prefer the rough chop (just three or four slices through the pile with your chef’s knife), simply because I think the wilted pieces fit better on my spoon when I’m eating the soup.

You don’t have to peel the potatoes. I’ve prepared this soup both ways: with the potatoes peeled as well as with them unpeeled. I like the contrast of color that the red skins gives against all the green in here, plus the texture of the potato skin. On the other hand, I also like all that green and white! I did not peel these this time, as you can see:


You’ll want to medium dice the potatoes (about ¼-inch cubes). As you can see, some pieces will have skin and some will not. I find the easiest way to dice them is to slice the potato in half. Then, with the cut-side down, slice each half into ¼-inch slabs or “planks”. Then slice each plank into ¼-inch “sticks”, which will allow you to finally slice each stick into ¼-inch dice. Trust me, this doesn’t take as long as it sounds, and the diced potatoes are actually pretty when they’re all the same size. Place the diced potatoes into a bowl and cover with cold water to keep them from turning brown.

You will also want the leeks cut into medium dice (about ¼-inch pieces). I like to slice the leek in half and place it cut-side down, as you can see here:


I leave the root intact & make slices from just above the root, all the way to the end. You can see that I made four long slices. Then slice cross-wise at about ¼-inch intervals and you’ll have your diced leeks! If you want smaller pieces, just make more long slices. Want larger pieces? Make fewer long slices. Place your diced leeks in the same bowl of cold water as your potatoes, adding more cold water to cover, as needed.

Next up are the asparagus. It almost never fails: whenever I “bend and snap” spears of asparagus so the tough end breaks at its “natural” point, it nearly always snaps at about 3 inches from the end! So, unless I’m working with very thick asparagus,  I tend to skip the “bend and snap” method. I just leave the bundle banded and slice 3 inches off the bottom, which is exactly what I did here. Then you can work with 3 or 4 spears at a time:


Slice off the tips of the spears just where the “feathering” stops. From there make approximately ¼-inch slices. I usually make about 8 slices and then discard the rest of the what’s left of the bottom. You truly want the tenderest of the tender parts of the asparagus. Placed your diced asparagus into a separate bowl and cover with cold water to keep them crisp and green.

Mince the tarragon and keep the cup of frozen peas in the freezer until you’re ready to use them. Have a fine-mesh sieve handy to drain off the cold water that’s keeping your vegetables nice and fresh.


Bring  your broth to a simmer over medium heat. You can always hold the broth on low heat until just before you’re ready to serve.

Wait until you have about 15 minutes before serving; that’s all it will take for you to finish up! If you prepare the soup too early, the vegetables lose their brightness rather quickly. While the colors will muddy a bit, the flavor is still good, so it’s great for lunch over the next couple of days if you have any left over. But for this meal, prepare it at the last minute to serve at its peak!

Drain the cold water from the potatoes and leeks, and add them to the broth. Simmer for about 5 minutes.

Drain the cold water from the asparagus, and add them to the broth. Simmer for about 4 minutes. Your vegetables should all be nice and tender.

Turn off the heat. Stir in the spinach, peas (from the freezer), and tarragon. Cover for about 3-4 minutes to heat everything through.

Season to your taste with salt and pepper, stirring well and tasting after each addition.

Ladle into bowls and top with a quick little drizzle of your best olive oil and a single grind of black pepper. Enjoy!


I hope this has inspired you to go a little crazy with practicing and refining your knife skills. If it left you feeling a little daunted, think about looking into The Chopping Block’s Knife Skills class. It’s our most popular class for good reason: you will use what you learn every single time you step into your kitchen! Because the topic is so popular, these classes fill up quickly. For the rest of April, there's just one seat left at Knife Skills at the Merchandise Mart on April 27. While some classes have already filled in May, there are still openings at the Merchandise Mart on:

Knife Skills classes at the Lincoln Square location are scheduled for:

To get started on your knife skills at home, download our free Knife Skills 101 guide. All knives are 20% off in April so now is the perfect time to hone your skills.

Knife Skills Guide

Topics: vegetable, soup, Easter, Knife Skills, vegetables, Recipes, spring, veggies

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