Cooking for a family of two has certain challenges. These are not the same challenges as those my mother faced for so many years. I don’t come home from work and have to wrestle three kids, two of whom are picky, to a dinner they’ll all consent to eat, but I’ve got difficulties of my own. When you’re cooking for two, you eat a lot of leftovers. I find if I want to cook anything more complicated than a turkey sandwich, the effort involved to make six servings is no greater than the effort to make two. Of course, that means Stephen and I eat the same soup/macaroni and cheese/tomato sauce for the next three days.
It also means that we sometimes get our courses confused. For instance, a while ago Stephen was craving crab stuffed mushrooms, a typical appetizer-type item where a person might eat two or three. I made the whole recipe and we had them for dinner with a little salad. The pea and asparagus soup I made recently followed a similar pattern. I envisioned the recipe as sort of a sophisticated first course, but we ended up having a large serving as a light a but somewhat elaborate meal.
My mom called just as I was garnishing the soup and preparing to take the picture. I had just burned my arm and I was trying to get the photo before I lost all the natural light. I rushed to finish before the soup got inedibly cold. “Mom,” I said, “I’m kind of in the middle of something, I’ll call you back!” For a two-person family, that’s about as frantic as it gets.
I was very happy with how this soup turned out, sweet and very Spring-y, with a stunning bright green color. For a more casual presentation, skip the straining step and garnish, and serve with toasted baguette slices smeared with goat cheese and heated under a broiler.
Pea and Asparagus Soup with Scallops
For the soup:
2 1/2 cups frozen petit pois (or fresh, if they are tender and sweet)
1 1/2 cups asparagus spear, stems peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces, tips reserved
1 very small (4 oz.) potato, peeled and diced
1/3 cup diced shallots
1 minced garlic clove
1/4 cup white wine
3 cups of water (or chicken stock)
3 sprigs basil
1/4 cup heavy cream
lemon juice to taste
5 medium-sized scallops
For the garnish:
Additional heavy cream, or thinned creme fraiche
Reserved asparagus tips
4 tablespoons peas
Saute the shallots and garlic in about a tablespoons of butter until tender. Add the wine, water, potato, and a generous pinch of salt and boil for about 3 minutes. Add the asparagus and simmer until it and the potato are quite tender, 5-7 minutes. (I chose to blanche the asparagus tips for about 2 minutes at this point, then I removed them from the pot for a garnish later.) Add the peas and cook about 2 minutes, or until just tender.
Puree the soup in a blender with the basil leaves, then put through a fine sieve or chinois. This took a while, so be patient (I cleaned up the kitchen). The soup could be made up to this point a day or two ahead.
Return the soup to the pot, add the heavy cream and heat to a simmer. Season to taste with salt, white pepper, and lemon juice.
In a small saute pan, heat the asparagus tips and reserved peas in butter, season with salt. At this stage, you have two options with the scallops. Either cut them into quarters and saute with the peas and asparagus, or just slice them very thinly and divide them among the soup bowls where the hot soup will gently poach them (I prefer this method, but I like scallops barely cooked).
Divide the soup among the bowls, add on the peas and asparagus tips, drizzle on the heavy cream or creme fraiche, and sprinkle with basil.