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?É¬®me fra?É¬Æche 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 4x4 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.