Several months ago, I took a couple of cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma. Actually, it was really more like witnessing a cooking demonstration, getting a free cookbook, and being served a fabulous three-plus course meal. But that's just semantics. I was first made aware of these opportunities when I received an email about the Cookbook Club featuring Giada de Laurentiis's new book, Weeknights with Giada. I looked at the menu and when my tummy started rumbling, I knew I needed to get involved in this club. Unfortunately, that month's demonstration was booked solid, so I signed up for the next class, and made a plan to prepare Giada's menu despite the fact that I wouldn't be able to sample the dishes before making the meal for my husband. I found the cookbook at Target and immediately went to town tagging the dozens of recipes I couldn't wait to try. In fact, I cooked from that book for an entire month and still didn't cover everything! Needless to say, the five or six recipes featured in the cooking class were far too much for just one meal for my husband and I, so I split the recipes up, making this soup along with an open-faced shrimp sandwich on a day we were looking to lighten things a bit. It's creamy, full of flavor, and such a gorgeous color... I just know you're going to love it!
1/2 cup herbed goat cheese crumbles, at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh basil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 large leek (white and pale green parts only) thinly sliced
4 cups chicken stock
2 pounds asparagus, trimmed (frozen will work if you can't find fresh)
Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper or waxed paper. In a small food processor, process the goat cheese and 2 tablespoons basil until smooth. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, or to taste. Spray a 1/2-ounce cookie scoop or round tablespoon measure with cooking spray. Scoop the goat cheese into balls and place on the prepared baking sheet. Chill in the fridge until you make the soup.
In a large pot, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the leek and cook, stirring constantly, until softened, 3-4 minutes. Add the stock, asparagus, and remaining basil and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat so that the mixture simmers and cook for about 15 minutes, until tender.
Working in batches, place the soup in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Season to taste. Ladle into shallow bowls and garnish with the goat cheese balls.
Recipe adapted from Weeknights with Giada by Giada de Laurentiis.