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Benevolent Valentine: Recipe makes enough for a good friend -- and the one you love

"Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love." -- Lao Tzu

One can get their hands on just about any type of Valentine gift these days. Naturally, there are slews of "deals" on heart shaped pendants, roses -- both fresh and scratch-and-sniff, singing stuffed gorillas, sparkly plastic trinkets, and cheap chocolates galore!

In your local card aisle, you can even find a Valentine card from the family dog -- as if Chewy the Chiuhuahua gives two bones about Valentine's Day.

No doubt, this commercialization has warped a holiday that was originally instituted to honor a martyred saint and to inspire selfless love. In light of our current economic climate, an altruistic alternative could be refreshing.

As Valentine's weekend approaches, challenge yourself to think outside the chocolate box. More specifically, make soup! This week's recipe makes a huge pot of delicious, creamy, comforting soup. Think of someone you know who could use a surprise delivery of hot soup -- your elderly neighbor, a tireless volunteer, a friend who happens to be facing giants, or maybe someone to whom you owe a thank you. It's time to show some love, my friend.

While there is a bit of effort involved in this kind endeavor, it will be worth the effort as the beneficiary tastes the love in every bite. As an added perk, all of these ingredients are available at reasonable prices at your local wholesale. You see, I'm showin' some love by making it simple for you!

Because the recipe is quite generous, "cupid" can pierce two hearts with one arrow; following your delivery jaunt, there will still be enough soup remaining to keep a quart for your own Valentine's Day pursuits. Paired with a lovely chardonnay, this dreamy soup makes the perfect elixir to spoon-feed to your sweetheart by candlelight. Just a few tastes, and visions of heart shaped cubic zirconia pendants and dancing gorillas will vanish. OK, that might be a stretch, but this stuff is pretty darn scrumptious! Let love (and soup) rule!

Recipe: Creamy crab asparagus soup

1 pound lump crab meat

2 pounds asparagus

3/4 cup butter

3/4 cup flour

4 celery stalks, thinly sliced

5 shallots, finely diced

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 cup of good white wine

1 quart of chicken stock or broth

1 quart of milk

1 pint of heavy cream

1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning

Tapatio hot sauce

1 teaspoon white pepper

2 teaspoons salt

NOTE: Shallots can be found at most grocery stores and are often near the garlic. They look like very small red onions, and possess a lovely mild onion flavor.

Equipment that will make this easier:

A large stock pot or heavy bottomed soup pot

An immersion blender

A good whisk

Directions:

Trim the tough bottom ends from rinsed asparagus. Discard. Chop remaining asparagus into 1 inch pieces. Reserve the tips of the asparagus spears, as they will go into the soup when it is nearly finished.

Heat the butter in a stockpot over medium-high heat. When butter is melted, add the shallots, garlic and celery. Stirring often, continue to saute the vegetables until the shallots are translucent and the celery is softening, about 7 minutes. Be careful that you do not burn the garlic, as it will become bitter.

Add the flour to the vegetables and butter. Stir with a wooden spoon, and continue to cook the paste-like mixture (aka, a roux) for about 3 minutes, or until it is bubbling consistently.

Pour the white wine into the roux, and whisk until the wine is incorporated. Whisk in the chicken stock. Add the asparagus pieces to the hot liquid, but make sure to reserve the tips -- we'll use those later.

Simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes. When the asparagus is tender, remove the pot from heat, and use an immersion blender to puree the soup to your liking. I happen to like the soup slightly chunky, so I blend it for just a minute. If you don't have an immersion blender, you can do this in small batches in a blender.

Caution -- too much hot liquid in the blender can create a kitchen disaster! Just fill about 1/3 of the blender at a time.

Bring the pot of blended soup back to the stove on medium heat. Add the quart of milk, Old Bay Seasoning, salt, white pepper, and Tapatio (based on your hankering for spice).

When mixture comes to a simmer, add the lump crab meat and asparagus tips. Give it a stir. Oooh, your kitchen is smelling good now! Bring to a simmer once again, then add the heavy cream. Continue heating until the soup just begins to simmer, and remove from the heat. Adjust salt, pepper, and Tapatio to taste.

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