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Cold Asparagus Chowder

This is a cold chowder, although you can certainly serve it warm. If serving cold, you'll need several hours of refrigeration time. The great thing about this chowder is that it uses an entire season's woody asparagus ends (see sidebar). If you haven't been saving your woody ends, substitute 1 1/2 pounds of fresh asparagus, but you'll still want to discard the solids after making the stock because you've cooked all the goodness out of the asparagus.

This is a perfect salute to the end of the season, and a nice beginning to the chilled vegetable soups of summer. If you wish, you can run the chowder through a blender and make it a bisque.

Makes 6 servings

1 1/2 pounds asparagus woody ends (or same amount asparagus)

1 small onion, peeled and quartered

2 medium (3-inch) potatoes, peeled and quartered

4 cups chicken stock

2 tablespoons butter

2 medium leeks, white part only, chopped, about 1 cup

1 pound asparagus spears without woody ends, cut into 1-inch pieces

Juice of 1/2 lemon

2 tablespoons minced fresh summer savory

1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

1 cup cultured buttermilk

Salt to taste

Put woody ends, onion quarters and potatoes in a soup pot with chicken stock, and bring to a vigorous simmer. Cook for 30 minutes.

Strain and discard asparagus and onion solids, but keep the potatoes and mash thoroughly with a bit of the stock to loosen them up. Reserve potatoes.

Melt butter over medium heat, add leeks and saute until translucent.

Return soup base to stove over medium heat, add leeks and bring to simmer. Add cut-up asparagus and cook until just done, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add savory, pepper, buttermilk, mashed potato, lemon juice and salt to taste. Allow to cool, then refrigerate until chilled, about 4 hours.

Taste and adjust seasonings before serving.

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