sweet and sour rhubarb soup
zuppetta agrodolce di rabarbaro
This most unusual, and savory, soup practically screams spring.
- 5 ounces rustic bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3 1/2 cups)
- 1 1/2 pounds rhubarb stalks
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
- Fine sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 6 stalks asparagus, trimmed, cut in half crosswise, then lengthwise, if spears are fat
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 5 ounces baby spinach (about 1 1/2 cups packed)
- Flakey coarse sea salt, such as Maldon
Heat oven to 350º with rack in middle.
Spread bread cubes on a baking sheet and bake, stirring once or twice, until toasted and lightly golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack to cool.
Using a vegetable peeler, cut 4 long strips of rhubarb lengthwise from 1 rhubarb stalk to form ribbons for tying asparagus; set aside. Cut remaining rhubarb (including peeled stalk) crosswise into 1/4 inch pieces.
In a large saucepan, combine chopped rhubarb, water, shallots, oil, sugar, 1 teaspoon fine sea salt and generous pinch pepper over medium-high heat. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb is tender and flavors are blended, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, combine asparagus, butter and generous pinch fine sea salt; add water to just cover asparagus. Cook over high heat until asparagus are crisp-tender, about 1 minute after water comes to boil. Reserving skillet with water mixture, use tongs to transfer asparagus to a colander to drain, then transfer to a clean work surface. Add spinach to skillet; cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until wilted and tender, 1 to 2 minutes, then drain.
Transfer soup to a blender; carefully purée until smooth. Return soup to saucepan. Heat soup just to a simmer, then remove from heat and cover to keep warm.
Divide asparagus into 4 bundles; tie with reserved rhubarb ribbons.
Divide soup among shallow serving bowls; divide asparagus bundles, spinach and toasted bread cubes among bowls. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Serve immediately.
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