Palace Kitchen in Seattle serves a Caesar salad with an enormous crouton. The crouton is bigger than the also huge hearts of Romaine. It’s crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, and other than being a bit hard to eat, is one of my favorite things on the menu. That, and the three tiered burger is nice too.
This week, I’ve been in the mood for soup… and with so many soup-appropriate veggies in season, I decided to make a spring green soup and indulge myself in making an enormous croutons to top it off. Asparagus clearly had to be the main focus, but I rounded out the flavor with some leeks and green chili. I found a recipe in the Williams-Sonoma Soups and Stews cookbook that I got some number of years ago and adapted from there.
The crouton itself is really easy to make, but it does potentially waste a lot of bread. I recommend saving the scraps and whipping up a bread pudding for dessert. But, sadly, I’m off of desserts this week… so I just ate the bread remains with butter as I cooked. Hmm. Maybe that wasn’t the best idea?
Asparagus Soup with Enormous Crouton
Serves 4 to 6 as a starter
For the crouton
1 loaf of unsliced sourdough or whole wheat loaf
2 T olive oil
1 T garlic
1 T grated parmesan cheese
For the soup
1 T butter
1 T olive oil
1 lb of asparagus, woody ends removed
1 medium pototo, peeled and chopped
1 large leek
1 large Anaheim chili
1 T minced garlic
32 oz. vegetable or chicken stock
Salt & Pepper to taste
Cr?Ã‰Â¬Â®me fra?Ã‰Â¬Ã†che for garnish
Preheat oven to 350F.
In a small bowl, mix the olive oil and garlic for the croutons. Cut the loaf into 4 to 6 4×4 inch cubes (remove the crusts if desired), depending on how many you are serving. Brush all sides of each crouton with the oil mixture until well saturated. Sprinkle the tops with the parmesan cheese. Set aside.
Remove the tips from the asparagus and set aside. Peel the remaining asparagus stems with a vegetable peeler, and chop into 3 inch pieces. Set aside.
Carefully clean the leeks and finely chop the white portions. Discard the seeds from the chili, and finely chop.
In a heavy soup pot, combine the olive oil and butter and heat on medium high until the butter melts. Add the leeks, chili and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the asparagus and potato. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the asparagus starts to soften. Add the stock and bring the whole mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 30 minutes.
Place the croutons on a baking sheet, and bake for about 15 minutes. Flip and continue to bake for another 15 minutes or until crisp and golden brown.
In a small pot, add about a 1/2 cup of water and a teaspoon of butter and heat until the butter melts. Add the asparagus tips and a dash of salt. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until the tips start to soften. Remove from heat and set aside (draining any excess liquid).
When the soup has cooked for 30 minutes, remove from heat and let cool for about 5 minutes. Carefully pour the contents into a blender and blend until smooth. Put back into the pot, add the asparagus tips, and return the soup to a medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, ladle into individual bowls. Drizzle with a bit of cr?Ã‰Â¬Â®me fra?Ã‰Â¬Ã†che, and top with one enormous crouton.