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Chef Gilligan's asparagus and potato soup

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This Thursday, forty years after the first Earth Day, the world is in greater peril than ever. While climate change is the greatest challenge of our time, it also presents the greatest opportunity – an unprecedented opportunity to build a healthy, prosperous, clean energy economy now and for the future. Tell that to Texas!

I think we should start by getting rid of NASCAR, just think of all the fuel that’s wasted and the pollutants in the air plus all those rednecks that hoot and holler about cars going around and round in a circle is just beyond me!

What better way to honor Earth Day than to prepare a dish that's easy on the environment? It is best to use seasonal fruits and vegetables that are less likely to contain harmful pesticides.

Peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, imported grapes, spinach, lettuce and potatoes typically have the highest pesticide levels, according to the Environmental Working Group in Washington, D.C., while onions, avocados, frozen sweet corn, pineapples, mangoes, asparagus, frozen peas, kiwi, bananas, cabbage, broccoli and papayas have the lowest.

Choosing the latter and avoiding the former - unless organic - could slash your family's pesticide exposure by almost 90 percent.

Look for spring gems like asparagus, blueberries, cabbage, cauliflower, mushrooms and peas at your nearest farmer's market. Eating local supports your economy and involves fewer miles traveled - and fewer pollutants emitted - to get dinner on your plate.

Asparagus and Potato Soup
Spring's favorite vegetable -- asparagus -- stars in this hearty soup, which also includes shallots, potato, and thyme. It's the perfect starter or appetizer for an Earth Day feast, or for any time you want a fresh and filling soup.

Ingredients
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 medium shallots, diced small (about ¼ cup)
1 garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon kosher salt
12 small asparagus spears, tips and bottoms removed, sliced ¼ -inch thick (about 1 cup)
4 cups organic vegetable stock
1 medium-size potato, diced into ¼ -inch cubes (about ¾ cup)
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Pinch of ground white pepper
Pinch of sea salt
Garlic croutons, bagel crisps or roasted asparagus tips for garnish

Method
In a medium saucepan, warm olive oil over medium-low heat; Add shallots, garlic and salt; sweat vegetables on low heat until shallots are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add asparagus to saucepan and cook 5 minutes more.
Add vegetable stock, potatoes and thyme. Cover and bring to a boil; skim foam off the top with a ladle.
Lower heat and simmer about 30 minutes with lid slightly ajar. Stir occasionally.
Remove from heat; discard thyme sprig. Puree soup in blender in batches, 1-2 cups at a time, until smooth. (Safety tip: Cover top of blender with a thick kitchen towel while you puree to keep hot liquid from splattering.)
Strain pureed soup through a large fine-mesh strainer to remove any remaining lumps. Return soup to saucepan.
Season soup with lemon juice, pepper and salt to taste. Garnish and serve immediately.
 

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