- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 9, 2006

On Mother’s Days past, our son (assisted by his dad) liked to make breakfast for me. Following much clanging of pots and pans, I would be greeted by a smiling junior chef, proudly holding a tray loaded with breakfast.

In those days, our child rarely ventured into the kitchen to cook. Mother’s Day was the single exception.

A few decades later, he’s a parent himself and more than a little talented when it comes to cooking. In fact, he does most of the meal preparation for his young family and loves celebrating special occasions with good food.

On May 14, for example, I know he is looking forward to preparing lunch for his wife and will be helped enthusiastically, if not technically, by his daughter, who is almost 4 and crazy about what she calls “cooking,” and his son, a 11/2-year-old who can’t stay away from pots and pans.

The menu will be simple: homemade soup, a big salad of spring greens tossed in a lemon and olive oil dressing, a plate of cheeses, a crusty baguette from a local bakery and strawberries served with honey-scented whipped cream for dessert.

I suggested a creamy asparagus soup that requires only about 45 minutes to prep. Sliced asparagus and chopped shallots are sauteed in butter, then simmered in chicken stock along with rice, which is used in place of potatoes to thicken the soup.

A touch of cayenne pepper provides a little heat. The mixture is pureed, then enriched with a little creme fraiche.

This soup, which is rich and luxurious but not heavy, can anchor a lunch or supper, or be a dinner first course. It actually improves in flavor when prepared a day in advance, and if you are entertaining a crowd on Mothers’ Day, you can easily double or triple the recipe.

Mother’s Day asparagus soup

This soup can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat over medium heat, stirring often.

1½ pounds asparagus

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup chopped shallots

4 cups chicken stock, plus a little extra if needed

Kosher salt

Scant 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/3 cup long-grain rice, uncooked

1/3 cup creme fraiche, plus 3 to 4 tablespoons extra for garnish

4 to 6 flat-leaf parsley sprigs for garnish, optional

Cut off and discard tough bases from asparagus. Cut spears into ½-inch-thick slices.

Heat butter in a large, heavy casserole with a lid set over medium high heat, until melted and hot. Add shallots and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes.

Add asparagus slices and stir and cook a minute more. Add stock, ½ teaspoon salt, cayenne pepper and rice. Bring mixture to a simmer, then lower heat, cover pot and cook until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

Puree soup in a food processor or blender, or use an immersion blender. A little at a time, whisk in 1/3 cup of the creme fraiche. Taste and season with more salt, if needed. If soup is too thick, you can thin it with a few tablespoons of extra stock.

To serve as a main course, divide soup among 4 shallow soup bowls. To serve as a first course, divide soup among 6 small soup bowls or cups. Garnish each serving with a dollop of creme fraiche and, if desired, a parsley sprig. Makes 4 servings as a light main course; 6 as a first course.

Note: Creme fraiche is available in many supermarkets, but if you can’t find it, the following recipe works well.

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/3 cup sour cream

Whisk cream and sour cream together in a medium nonreactive bowl. Let stand at warm room temperature 8 hours or longer until thickened. Cover and refrigerate. Creme fraiche can be stored up to 1 week, covered, in the refrigerator.

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