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Saturday, March 19, 2011

broccoli soup


St. Patrick’s Day Soup

I get to go in and volunteer in Meredith’s kindergarten class on Thursday mornings. Last Thursday was, of course, St. Patrick’s Day. Meredith wore as much green as she could—lime-green t-shirt and leggings, and a leaf-green polar fleece sweater. She looked like a pea pod. Her winter jacket is also green, and her watch has green alligators on it. I figured she’d be just about the greenest kid in her class—and wondered how many other kids would remember to wear green. So I was completely unprepared for the sight that met my eyes when I arrived at her class to help. Just about everyone was wearing some green, but not just green regular clothes: there were sparkly shamrock necklaces, a huge striped green hat that looked like something the Cat in the Hat might wear, sequined hats and faux red-haired braids, shamrocks painted on faces, and shiny green dresses. Luckily I, too, was heavily be-greened—my green polar fleece sweater, green earrings and green snakeskin clogs assured me that I wouldn’t get pinched.

When I got home, I was so inspired by all that green that I figured it was a good day to make broccoli soup. I was influenced by the recent (March & April 2011) issue of Cook’s Illustrated, which had a recipe for a broccoli-cheese soup, but I wanted to make it without the cheese.  Here’s what I came up with!


broccoli soup

This recipe is inspired by a broccoli-cheese soup in Cook’s Illustrated, but doesn’t have any cheese. I like their method for cooking the broccoli until very soft to get more flavor out of the vegetable, and using a little baking soda to help the broccoli break down faster. I used broccoli that I had already blanched and frozen, but I’m giving you the recipe to make it with fresh broccoli. If you use frozen and thawed broccoli, it will take less time to cook down completely.

You can serve the soup with garlicky croutons, a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, or just eat it plain like I did—it’s delicious!

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds broccoli , florets roughly chopped into 1-inch pieces, stems trimmed, peeled, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 large onion , roughly chopped
2 medium garlic cloves , minced
1 to 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
pinch cayenne pepper
kosher or sea salt to taste
3 to 4 cups water
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 cups vegetable broth
freshly-ground black pepper
optional garnishes:
fresh-grated Parmesan cheese
garlicky croutons (recipe follows)

1. Heat oil in large heavy soup pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add onion and 1 teaspoon salt and sauté until the onion begins to brown. Add broccoli, garlic, mustard, and cayenne. Cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is fragrant, about 3 more minutes. Add 1 cup water and baking soda. Bring to simmer, cover, and cook until broccoli is very soft, about 20 minutes, stirring once during cooking.
2. Add broth and 2 cups water and increase heat to medium-high to bring up to a simmer. Taste the broth for salt and mustard, and add more as you like. Turn off the heat and let the soup cool for a bit, until you can comfortably transfer the soup, in batches, into a blender. Process the soup until smooth, about 1 minute for each batch. Return soup to pot.
3. If you want to serve the soup with croutons, make them now.
4. When you’re ready to eat, place the soup over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Adjust consistency of soup with more broth or water as desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve, passing croutons at the table as a garnish, or Parmesan cheese if you like (although I didn’t think it needed the cheese).

garlicky croutons
5 slices hearty whole-grain bread
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed in a garlic press
¼ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mash the garlic with the salt in the bottom of a medium-sized bowl. Stir in the olive oil. Cut the slices of bread into ½” cubes and toss them in the garlicky oil until the oil is thoroughly absorbed and distributed.
2. Spread the bread cubes out on a baking sheet and bake for 15-25 minutes, until the croutons are crispy and golden-brown.


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