Sunday Family Dinner

The Birthday Boys GO BIG!

April 2019 Fam Din
What can I say about these two dudes?

Not only do they share a birthmonth but they also share a special connection – they’re the best of buds.

And they also share a similar sensibility of foods….

More on that later.

April 2019 Fam Din
To kick off Fam Din, we needed cocktails….something of the tropical nature as a nod to my BIL C.

April 2019 Fam Din
And what evokes “tropical” than a big batch of Blended Passionfruit Margaritas??

April 2019 Fam Din
Aren’t they lovely?

Slightly sweet, super tart and packed a punch that you don’t see coming.

April 2019 Fam Din
As for the food menu, the birthday dudes pretty much wanted ALL THINGS SEAFOOD!

Lobster, crabs, calamari….

I mean, no complaints here!

April 2019 Fam Din
First appetizer was per C’s request – Crispy Calamari with Marinara Sauce.

April 2019 Fam Din
V took the lead with this and we inhaled a few trays of them.

April 2019 Fam Din
C also wanted LOBSTAH!

Seester steamed several lobsters and shelled them. Look at all of those chunks of gorgeous meat!

April 2019 Fam Din
But hey–we just didn’t enjoy the meat.

Seester T took also took the lobster “tomalley”, aka “lobster fat” and mixed it with mayo and spices to create these decadent Lobster Tomalley Crostini.

SUPER scrumptious and a great way to use all parts of the lobster.

April 2019 Fam Din
Then it was time to get the Littlings‘ involved — even if Lucasaurus was one of the birthday boys.

April 2019 Fam Din
We had them trim greens beans that seestrah T used later to make Stir-Fried Garlic Green Beans. It’s a veggie dish that even the munchkins enjoy!

April 2019 Fam Din
Now back to some decadence….

If you’ve been following my Instagram, you saw that a few months ago, I finally got to try Beef Ribeye Cap Steaks – a beef cut that I’ve been coveting for a LONG time.

April 2019 Fam Din

The cap is the top, most tender and marbleized portion that runs above the ribeye steak.

It is so beefy, so packed with flavor….it’s incredible.

So although neither birthday boy explicitly requested it, we knew it would be a hit with them and asked brother V to cook some of up on the cast iron.

April 2019 Fam Din
After they had rested a bit, Nini sliced them up….

And she had a couple of onlookers — just in case she had dropped anything on the floor.

April 2019 Fam Din
Take a gander!

April 2019 Fam Din
Oh!

I almost forgot about these!

I decided to grill up some spears because they looked quite lovely that morning.

April 2019 Fam Din
After I pulled them off the grill, I topped them with a quick dressing I had made earlier to deepen their flavors.

Grilled Asparagus with Salsa Verde – awesome alongside any summertime meal.

April 2019 Fam Din
Lucas had two requests for dinner….crabs and mint chip ice cream.

Well actually, he also wanted plain rice too.

Our little Asian dude….

April 2019 Fam Din
Initially we were going to pick up several Dungeness crabs to steam up but when we got to the store—no Dungeness crabs were to be found!

DOH!

April 2019 Fam Din
So we took a quick run to Costco and picked up a few pounds of Alaskan King Crab Legs …. and as it turns out, those are actually Lucasaurus‘ fave.

April 2019 Fam Din
CAUGHT!

Fam on their devices during Fam Din!

BUSTED!

April 2019 Fam Din
We’ll give them a pass this time.

Back in the kitchen we returned our attention to the huge bowl of lobster meat.

April 2019 Fam Din
And with the assist of her kiddos, seester N created this STUNNING platter of Lobster Rolls.

April 2019 Fam Din
I know….

Calamari, Tomalley Crostinis, Ribeye Caps, King Crab….

April 2019 Fam Din
And now, Lobster Rolls, too?!?

I have no excuses….

…because I was too busy eating….

April 2019 Fam Din
Our plates, quite literally, ran over.

April 2019 Fam Din
Will these munchkins ever understand that eating like this isn’t “normal” for most 6-10 year olds?

But I’m okay with that because I’m banking that they’ll make these kinds of dishes for me when I’m 80 years old.

April 2019 Fam Din
Here’s Leia patiently waiting for us to finish dinner so that we could start the next episode of Game of Thrones.

April 2019 Fam Din
And then it was dessert time!

My nephew/godbebe doesn’t enjoy cake. He likes donuts and mint chip ice cream….the green kind.

For his birthday dessert, I made him a quick Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Pie.

April 2019 Fam Din
The base was an Oreo cookie crust and then it was filled with mint chip ice cream. I topped it with fresh whipped cream, Andes mint chocolates (a nod to our Grandpa who used to give them to us as kiddos when we were good) and chunks of a new Oreo-Mint candy bar.

But here’s my confession…

I DIDN’T MAKE THE CRUST – IT WAS STORE BOUGHT!

We were running around that morning with so many errands that by the time I got to the store, I just picked up the crust thinking that it would save me time.

But when I used it…THE GUILT!

Really!! It would have taken me all of 15 minutes to make the crust but I took the short cut. Which I get…is fine in most cases. But I felt so guilty and came clean to everyone….. I made a vow to make it up at the next dinner.

April 2019 Fam Din
As for C….the man loves him some green tea. So this oldie but goodie came out again — Green Tea Match Tiramisu.

April 2019 Fam Din

Needless to say, these dude were very happy with their Birthday Menu. And how could they not – it was all decadently delicious!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY Lucas and C! 

April 2019 Fam Din

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Blended Passionfruit Margaritas
Appetizers: Crispy Calamari with Marinara Sauce, Lobster Tomalley Crostini
Entree: Beef Ribeye Cap Steaks, Alaskan King Crab Legs, Lobster Rolls
Sides: Stir-Fried Garlic Green Beans, Grilled Asparagus with Salsa Verde, Steamed Rice
Dessert: Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Pie, Green Tea Match Tiramisu

Breakfast/Brunch · Sponsored · Vegetables/Vegetarian

Crispy Polenta Cakes with Poached Eggs & Asparagus

Polenta3
Spring has most definitely sprung!

The sun is shining, the days are getting longer, the flowers are in bloom (Aaaa-CHOO! My pollen allergies are terrible!) and everyone seems to be in a festive mood for celebrations and leisure meals. And why not? So many delicious items are coming back into season!

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Asparagus is one of those beautiful produces that are coming back and are popping up all over at our Farmers Markets and grocery stores. And in my opinion, nothing pairs more lovely with asparagus than eggs. Eggs and Asparagus….what could be more “Spring-like” than that winning combo?!

Safe Eggs
To celebrate the comeback of my favorite season, Spring, I’m partnering with the makers of Safest Choice™ pasteurized eggs to create a quick and easy dish that would be perfect to make for breakfast or even a last minute brunch gathering and featured that winning pairing.

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Veggies? Check!

Bright and sunny egg/protein? Check!

But what about a starch?

I’m not a gal to shy away from bread or potatoes — I’m unabashedly carbo-holic like that. Though for this dish, I thought I’d bring a little Italian slant to it by pan frying up some crispy polenta cakes by using a pre-made polenta roll.

Now before you yell at me for using a pre-made polenta, let me justify it by the following:

  1. One of my favorite stores carries a wonderful organic polenta roll that is extremely tasty and affordable.
  2. If I made the polenta myself, I would have to wait for it to cool before frying them up into crispy cakes.
  3. It’s QUICK! And who doesn’t need some short cuts every now and then?

But hey-if you prefer to make your own, I’m all over it! In fact, it would be a great opportunity to use up any leftover polenta you may have lingering in your fridge.

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After roasting the fresh asparagus with simple S&P and lemon zest, I topped them with the crispy polenta cakes and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. And the pièce de résistance – a beautifully poached Safest Choice™ pasteurized egg. In my humble opinion, there are few other culinary beauties than seeing an unctuous egg yolk over a dish.

Perfection!

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And not only is a beautiful but it’s functional. The yolk becomes a rich sauce for both the crisp polenta cakes and asparagus. I know some folks are wary of under cooked eggs but rest assured. Davidson’s Safest Choice® uses an all-natural egg pasteurization process to eliminate the risk of salmonella–all without changing that farm fresh flavor or nutrition. Plus their wonderful chicks are Hormone free, Antibiotic free, and Vegetarian-fed. You can learn more over at SafeEggs.com

Polenta

As for the next few months, I’m looking forward to all that Spring has to offer as well as fixing up more dishes fitting of the season. But in the meanwhile, you can find this quick and delectable recipe for Crispy Polenta Cakes with Poached Eggs and Asparagus here.

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*DISCLOSURE: This recipe and post was created in partnership with Safest Choice™ pasteurized eggs. However, as always, all opinions are my own.*

Sunday Family Dinner

Rockin’ Seafood Burgers and Our Backyard Family Antics

Seafood Burgers

April’s Family Dinner was my brother-in-law, Curtis‘, choice as his birthday was just a few days away. And when given the option, Curtis nearly always picks seafood.

We casually brainstormed at the last Family Dinner, throwing out seafood ideas we could potentially make. Initially we were going to tackle some whole fish baked in a sea salt dome but a few weeks ago, I met up for lunch in Newport Beach with some friends at Dory Deli. I had a delicious Ahi Burger and it inspired me to convince the sibs to change our menu.

April 2015 Family Dinner

Since we were all attending my Uncle’s retirement party that Sunday, we had our Family Dinner on a sunny, Saturday afternoon at my seester’s house in Orange County. On days like those, we try to take advantage of the warm weather and enjoy their wonderful backyard.

Lately, I also have been feeling like our lilmunchkins will soon become old munchkins–which has motivated me to take even more pictures of them to try and preserve these moments.

Why do they have to grow up????

Oh, that’s right…we need someone to take care of us during our senile years.

April 2015 Family Dinner

The adults sipped on Lychee-Mint Martinis while we prepped and caught up on life. They’re a light and refreshing martini that can be a bit dangerous because you don’t realize how strong they are until you’ve had a few.

They’re a spin off my Lychee Saketinis but with added herbal notes from the fresh mint that is pureed with the lychees and a heavy hand of fresh lime juice.

Lychee-Mint Martinis

To nosh on, big seester wrapped tender asparagus with slices of salty prosciutto and roasted them in the oven. When she wasn’t looking, I sprinkled finely grated parmesan cheese over the asparagus during the last few minutes while it roasted to add a bit more umami.

I kind of hate myself a little any time I use that phrase but alas…how else can you describe it?

#FirstWorldProblems

Asparagus wrapped in Prosciutto

Since we were having burgers, we thought onion rings would also be a nice addition. But then big seester said…

“STEP UP YOUR GAME! Fry up a Blooming Onion instead!”

Okay…she may not have said it that way, but that’s what I heard when she was talking to me.

April 2015 Family Dinner

If Seester wants a Blooming Onion, Seester gets a Blooming Onion. So I took advantage of the outdoor range and got to frying.

But between you and I, I didn’t get as pretty of a “bloom” as I usually do. Partly because I didn’t dredge it enough and partly because I should have used a smaller pot to help the onion stay a little more intact. It still tasted good but looked more like a flattened sunflower instead of a full dahlia.

For the recipe and pics of how it should have looked, meander on over here.

Crispy Blooming Onion

With a little food in our bellies and libations in our veins, we set about on a little bit of shenangians.

Like balloon soccer and some auntie-niece bonding time….

April 2015 Family Dinner

And there may have also been a little bit of backyard dancing that was involved. Because who doesn’t want to shake their booties to a little 90s R&B?

Eventually we turned our focus back on to dinner because the munchkins morph into Gremlins if they aren’t fed at regular intervals.

Mogwais? Freaking Adorable! Gremlins? Terrifying.

April 2015 Family Dinner

Since the main star of our meal were to be burgers, I volunteered to bake the buns. I was well aware of the heavy responsibility I signed up for but let’s face it. You can have a fantastic burger “patty” but if the bread is terrible, you’re a super sad panda.

Luckily, I stumbled upon a fantastic Brioche Bun recipe from Comme Ça. They were perfect and will now be my go-to recipe for burger buns. I’ll be sharing the recipe and my adventure with them soon.

We also snagged a few Squid Ink Rolls from 85c Bakery Cafe which is an incredibly popular Taiwanese bakery pumping out delicious breads and pastries around the clock. The roll itself is a bit shocking at first glance as it’s a deep black color. However, one bite into the soft roll and any negative misconceptions will be forgotten. They’re scrumptious and should not be passed up on if you happen to stop by one of their bakeries.

Brioche Buns

As for the “patties”, we prepared two types of fish.

The first were Chipotle Salmon Patties from How Sweet It Is. Roughly ground salmon with tons of spices, adobo sauce and parsley. The initial recipe called for the patties to be rolled in crushed tortillas chips before pan-frying them but we opted to use panko bread crumbs instead. These patties were served with a chipotle mayo.

The second were thick Ahi Steaks that were lightly marinated and then grilled–still keeping the centers beautifully pink and rare.

Seared Ahi

Our sides for the evening were hand cut, double-fried French Fries that were also fried up in the backyard and my Roasted Corn and Avocado Salad.

And I don’t mind saying that if you haven’t tried my Roasted Corn and Avocado Salad before, you really must add it to your list for summer grilling dishes. It really is a fantastic side for burgers, ribs, grilled chicken—practically everything!!

April 2015 Family Dinner

We gathered a bunch of fixins’ to top the burgers with. Butter lettuce, baby arugula, creamy avocado slices, tomatoes, my pickled red onions, chipotle mayo, my niece’s “crack sauce” and even tobiko — Japanese flying fish roe.

What’s Crack Sauce? It’s my niece, Stephanie’s, concoction that she uses as a base for her Spicy Tuna mixture. I really don’t know what it consists of other than mayo, tons of sriracha, sesame oil, tobiko and whatever else voodoo goodness she throws in it. And honestly, you can schmear it on or dip anything in it.

SO GOOD!

April 2015 Family Dinner

My family suffers from the MustTakePhotosOfFood Affliction.

Have you heard of it?

No?

WebMd it.

April 2015 Family Dinner

Here’s a head shot of the burgers…

Panko Crusted-Chipotle Salmon Burger with baby arugula, avocados, pickled red onions, chipotle mayo on toasted brioche bun.

Seared Ahi Burger with butter lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, tobiko, “crack sauce” on toasted broiche bun.

Seafood Burgers

Of course I didn’t eat both of the burgers!

But I wanted to…………

I went halvsies with my seester.

Seafood Burgers

And finally, dessert. Because a Family Dinner without dessert is straight up blasphemy. Curtis is a huge matcha fan so we decided to try out Nami’s Green Tea Souffle from Just One Cookbook. If you haven’t checked out her site before, you really must as it’s one of my go-to references for Japanese recipes.

As for the soufflés? They were on point—light, fluffy, airy and paired well with a quick chocolate sauce we whipped up. But the only down side with soufflés is that unless you’re a crazy amazing photographer, it’s near impossible to get a good shot of them before they start to fall. You barely have 0.35109 seconds before the gorgeous, raised souffles begin to sink.

At which point, an angel sheds a tear.

Sigh….

The only time I’ve ever have taken a decent soufflé picture is with these Chocolate Souffles with Raspberry Sauce and I’m fairly convinced it was with sheer luck that it happened.

Nonetheless, the Soufflés were delish.

Matcha Souffle

I should mention that at some point between dessert and clean up, we had a full blown 80s dance party-singing session in the kitchen.

We sounded amazing. Our moves were jaw-dropping. The kids were mortified.

Alas, bellies stuffed, hearts filled…..another Family Dinner to be proud of.

Until next month!

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This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Lychee-Mint Martinis
Appetizers: Roasted Proscuitto wrapped Asparagus, Bloomin’ Onion
Entrees: Chipotle Salmon Burgers, Ahi Burgers, Avocado-Corn Salad, French Fries
Dessert: Green Tea Souffle with Chocolate Sauce

Pizzas · Vegetables/Vegetarian

Spring Skillet Pizza Pie for π (PI) Day!

Spring Skillet Pizza Pie

Happy 3.14159 Day…..

otherwise known as π (Pi) DAY!

Spring Skillet Pizza Pie

This morning, my Twitter and IG feed have been filled with gorgeous berry, apple, and chocolate pies as my foodie friends around the world celebrate π Day. And it’s makin’ me HUNGRY!

But this year, I decided to lean towards the savory route again for π Day and this time, we went the Pizza Pie route!

Spring Skillet Pizza Pie

Since spring is just a few days away, I opted for colorful and light veggies for toppings. We started off with a base of EVOO, garlic, thyme, fresh mozzarella and then went to town on all the beautiful produce in reach. Mixed color peppers, artichokes, grape tomatoes, thin asparagus tips and arugula jumped out to me but really, use anything that tickles your fancy. The whole pi(e) was then drizzled with a sweet, tart balsamic reduction.

HOLY PI(E), BATMAN!

Did I ever mention that beautiful food geeks me out?

It also makes me dance around the kitchen….but that’s a story for another time.

Spring Skillet Pizza Pie

As you know, I’m obsessed with making pizza pi(es) in a cast iron skillet. But if you don’t own a cast iron or want to make a larger pizza pi(e), just bake the whole thing on a hot baking sheet (or pizza stone) for 15-20 minutes in a 450 degree F oven.

There’s still plenty of time to get your π Day on and here are some ideas for ya:

And with that folks— have a gorgeous weekend and HAPPY π DAY!

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Spring Skillet Pizza
Serves 2

Ingredients:

5 ounces fresh pizza dough, rested and at room temperature
flour
½ tablespoon corn meal
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, divided
¼ cup thinly sliced red onions
¼ cup thinly sliced bell peppers
¼ pound thinly sliced fresh mozzarella cheese
½ cup blanched asparagus
4-6 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ cup artichoke hearts, quartered
½ tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
sea salt
½ teaspoon fresh lemon zest
fresh black pepper
2-3 pinches red chili flakes
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar reduction*
1 small handful fresh arugula leaves

Turn on the oven broiler and adjust one of the racks to the top of the oven to rest directly under the broiler. Place a seasoned cast iron skillet (10-12 inches in diameter) directly under the broiler for 8-10 minutes. It may begin to smoke but you need the skillet to be screaming hot.

While the skillet is heating, roll out the pizza dough onto a floured surface–you’ll want it a tad smaller than the width of your skillet. If you have a pizza peal, sprinkle it with cornmeal and transfer the pizza dough onto it. If not, you can also use a wooden cutting board.

Brush the olive oil over the dough and sprinkle the garlic and ½ the thyme leaves over it. Quickly top with the red onions, bell peppers, mozzarella cheese, asparagus, tomatoes and artichoke. Once the skillet has heated for the appropriate length of time, quickly and CAREFULLY slide the pizza into the skillet. Replace the skillet so it sits directly underneath the broiler.

Close the oven door and allow the pizza to cook for about 45-60 seconds. Open the oven door and rotate the skillet 180 degrees. Close the door and allow another 60-90 seconds underneath the broiler. Once the crust is slightly charred and cheese has melted, CAREFULLY remove the skillet from the oven and place it on a rack for 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle the top with parmesan cheese, remaining thyme leaves, sea salt, lemon zest, black pepper, and chili flakes. Drizzle the balsamic reduction and top with the arugula leaves. Transfer the pizza to a cutting board, slice up and enjoy!

*To make the balsamic reduction, combine 1 cup balsamic vinegar, ½ tablespoon sugar and 2 pinches of red chili flakes to a small sauce main. On medium-high heat, bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce the heat to low. Continue stirring and cooking until the liquids have reduced by half and take on a thick, syrup consistency—about 10 minutes. Be sure to watch the reduction closely as it can burn quickly. Transfer to a container and allow to cool completely.

Vegetables/Vegetarian

Spring Risotto – Spring has Sprung!

Spring Risotto

Spring has sprung–and boy do I have a plateful of deliciousness that screams of spring flavors.

Creamy, cheesy risotto with leeks, peas and asparagus. The whole plate is then showered with parmesan and bright lemon zest.

Mega drools….

Spring Risotto

You could really throw whatever fresh veggies that your local market or farmers’ stands may have available. Zucchinis, mushrooms, chard and spinach would be rad options. As for cooking liquids, I opted to use some white wine and chicken stock in the risotto but if you want to go with a purely vegetarian route, a well flavored vegetable stock would also work well.

Spring Risotto

Have a delectable weekend, Folks!

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Spring Risotto
Serves approximately 4

Ingredients:
4 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup chopped leeks, thoroughly washed and dried
1 tablespoon minced garlic
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 cup Arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, more to garnish
1 cup peas
1 cup blanched asparagus tips
kosher salt
black pepper
fresh lemon zest

Heat the chicken stock in a medum saucepan and keep warm over low heat.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté until softened and translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, thyme leaves, rice and stir quickly until the rice is well coated and opaque—about 1 minute.  Stir in the wine and cook until the liquid is nearly all evaporated.

Ladle in 1 cup of the chicken broth into the rice. Simmer and slowly stir until the rice has absorbed the liquid. Add the remaining broth, 1 cup at a time. Continue to simmer and stir, allowing the rice to absorb each addition of broth before adding more. The risotto should be slightly firm and creamy–approximately 25 minutes in total.

Stir in Parmesan cheese until the cheese has melted. Gently fold in the peas and asparagus tips. Check for seasonings and adjust with the kosher salt and pepper.

Spoon the risotto into dishes. Grate additional parmesan cheese on top and sprinkle fresh lemon zest over each dish. Serve immediately.

 

Soups/Stews

Cream of Asparagus Soup

I’ve been on a soup kick lately….it’s all I want to eat and all I want to cook. I’m sure the nonstop rain we’ve been experiencing may have something to do with it, too. 🙂

So, this past Sunday, I thought I would make a Cream of Asparagus Soup. It sounded earthy, fresh, and somewhat “indulgent” because of the cream. I threw together some ingredients we had on hand and was extremely happy with the results. Not only was it quick and simple but it was also delicious! The crab meat added such a great “hmmmm” factor to the simple soup without deterring from the fresh produce. The lemon juice is also a must—as the acidity helps with it to not be over “creamy”.

Enjoy!

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Cream of Asparagus Soup
Serves approximately 3-4

Ingredients:

1 Large Leek, finely chopped and thoroughly washed
2 Large Shallots, chopped
2 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
2 Garlic Cloves, minced finely
2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon Fresh Lemon Juice
1 lb. Fresh Asparagus (approximately 1 bunch), cut into 1 inch pieces
4 Cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
½ Cup Heavy Cream (or Half & Half)
½ Cup Crab Meat
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a heavy pot, melt butter with the olive oil. Cook leeks, shallots, and garlic until ingredients are softened-but not browned. Add asparagus, thyme leaves and broth. Simmer with lid on. Cook until tender, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat.

Purée the items with the lemon juice in a blender until smooth. This may be done in batches. Be sure to take precaution blending hot liquids. Pour the puréed soup into a clean pot and stir in cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Gently warm the soup until it begins to lightly bubble.

Ladle soup into bowls and place a heaping spoon of crabmeat in the center of the bowl. Serve with toasted bread.

Asparagus, Leeks, Shallots, and Lemon
Fresh Cream of Asparagus Soup with Crab. Served with Toasted Sourdough Baguette.