Menu for Mom centers on soup

Double or triple recipe if you're feeding a crowd

Go Entertain

May 13, 2006|By TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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. But now, 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.

Tomorrow, 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 1 1/2 -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 prepare. 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 Mother's Day, you can easily double or triple the recipe.

Betty Rosbottom writes for Tribune Media Services.

MOTHER'S DAY ASPARAGUS SOUP

Serves 4 to 6

1 1/2 pounds asparagus

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 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 1/2 -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, 1/2 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 emersion 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. (The soup can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat over medium heat, stirring often.)

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.

Per serving (based on six servings): 160 calories, 7 grams protein, 8 grams fat, 4 grams saturated fat, 17 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 16 milligrams cholesterol, 541 milligrams sodium

A MOTHER'S DAY LUNCH

Spring greens tossed in a lemon and olive oil dressing

Plate of cheeses with crusty French bread

Asparagus soup

Strawberries served with honey-scented whipped cream

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