I try to clean up my diet during the spring. After months of eating warming soups, hearty stews, and lots of comfort foods, I reset by eating ample seasonal green vegetables, including raw salads, every day. I hydrate by drinking lots of water, green juices, and vegetable smoothies. I also try to eat smaller meals for dinner, like this quick and easy chilled soup I created using spinach and Thai basil from our home garden, asparagus from the Friday farmers’ market in Old Oakland, and green peas from Farmer Joe’s, an independent supermarket in Oakland. When I end the day with this soup, I wake up the next morning feeling light. Although the soup requires just a tablespoon or two of lemongrass peanuts for garnishing, I make a lot more so I can eat the rest as a snack.
2 cups raw peanuts
1 thin lemongrass stalk
2 tablespoons peanut oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon raw cane sugar
2 makrut lime leaves, finely chopped
1 Thai chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup finely diced yellow onion
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
4 cups vegetable stock
1 pound asparagus, tough stems trimmed, tips removed and reserved, stalks cut into ½-inch pieces
8 ounces baby spinach
1½ cups shelled fresh peas (about 1¼ pounds in the pod)
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
Finely ground white pepper
Thai Basil Oil, for drizzling
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil, for garnish
Make the peanuts: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Spread the peanuts in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet and bake, stirring every 5 minutes to ensure even cooking, until they are starting to crisp and smell fragrant, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, with a sharp knife, cut off and discard the lower bulb and upper end of the lemongrass stalk. Remove the tough outer layers until you get to the pale yellow inner core, and discard them. Thinly slice the lemongrass, then chop it as finely as possible.
In a small skillet, warm the peanut oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the salt and sugar and cook, stirring frequently, until dissolved, about 1 minute. Add the lemongrass, lime leaves, and chile and cook until the lime leaves and lemongrass are crispy, about 3 minutes. Scrape all the ingredients into a heatproof bowl and set aside.
When the peanuts are done, pour them into the bowl with the lemongrass mixture, mix well, and let cool for 15 minutes. Spread the peanuts over a clean paper towel and give them a nice squeeze to soak up any excess oil before serving.
Make the soup: In a medium saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and the salt and sauté, stirring often, until translucent but not browning, about 7 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus (reserving the tips for later), reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until just tender, about 7 minutes. Add the spinach and peas and cook for an additional 2 minutes, until the spinach is wilted and the peas are just tender. Stir in the vinegar. Quickly remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.
Working in batches if necessary, carefully transfer the soup to a blender and puree, adding water as needed to reach the desired consistency. Refrigerate until fully chilled before serving.
To serve, thin the soup with water as needed (it should pour easily from a spoon), then season with salt and white pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls and garnish each serving with the reserved asparagus tips, a drizzle of basil oil, a sprinkle of the lemongrass peanuts, and a generous pinch of fresh basil.