Cream of the Crop: “Beautiful soup, so rich and green …Waiting in a hot tureen! Who for such dainties would not stoop? Soup of the evening, beautiful soup! ” – Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Soup is one of those primordial comfort foods that can soothe the soul just thinking about it – a piping hot pot of love that is the simmering essence of solace. But poor broccoli, by itself, is a different story. I doubt there are people who are on the fence about broccoli: either they like it and they’ll eat it, or they don’t and they won’t. Remember the big hoopla in 1990 when President Bush banned it from Air Force One, complete with a sign over the galley that read “Broccoli-Free Zone?” I, too, used to belong to the latter consensus growing up but my mother forced it on me, citing its myriad health benefits. (Someone really should alert parents to the fact that this never helps their case in getting their kids to eat anything.) I became quite practiced and smooth at the art of misdirection while hiding the offensive-smelling cruciferous vegetable under my dinner napkin or feeding it to my dog. Unsuccessfully, I might add, as she always turned up her nose and walked away. I figured if a dog won’t eat it and it’s good for you, it must be horrible.
Boy, was I wrong.
Broccoli, from the Italian plural broccolo, means “cabbage sprout.” Indeed, broccoli is a close relative of cabbage, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. It was developed from a wild cabbage plant 2,000 years ago in Europe and thrives in cooler weather, making it a perfect vegetable for creamy soup for my late-winter slump.
This recipe showcases one of broccoli’s best features: that gorgeous green color that makes for a stunning-looking soup. The fact that broccoli is a nutritional powerhouse – high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber with potent anti-cancer properties, is just a bonus. But don’t tell your kids. They’ll (hopefully!) love this soup just because it tastes so good on a chilly day.
Broccoli and Cheddar Soup
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup diced yellow onion
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1-1/2 pounds broccoli, washed and trimmed, roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups water
- ½ cup heavy cream
- fresh grating of nutmeg
- 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
- In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the butter and olive oil over medium. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper, and cook until onion softens, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the broccoli, a little more salt and pepper, and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes more. Add the garlic, stir and cook for 1 minute more.
- Stir in the flour and raise the heat to medium-high. Slowly pour in the stock and water, stirring well. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, until the broccoli is tender, about 25 minutes. Using an immersion blender (or a regular blender, in batches), process until the soup is smooth. Be careful blending hot liquids! Return to the pot, if using a regular blender, and add in cream and nutmeg. Simmer for 5 minutes, or until heated through. Remove from the heat; stir in the cheese until melted; taste for seasoning. Serve warm.
…from the Picture-Perfect kitchen:
Planning: The soup will keep refrigerated for up to two days. Gently reheat. Do not boil.
Product Purity: Look for broccoli with a deep, strong green (or green with purple) color, tightly closed buds and crisp leaves. For chicken stock, I use all-natural Kitchen Basics, which does not contain added MSG.
Presentation: I unapologetically still love to serve soups and the like in bread bowls. Cut off a bit of the top, pull out a good amount of the insides. Fill with soup and garnish with a sprinkling of extra cheese, chives and croutons.