Earlier this week, I was speaking with a friend, and amidst a variety of food-related topics, she told me about a fennel soup she had made. I realized how rarely I make soup, and decided simultaneously that I should explore this unknown gastronomic territory. My mom makes wonderful soup; she probably has twelve recipes that she whips up effortlessly. Her proficiency is a little intimidating, but I decided I had to relinquish that feeling, and persevere. And this is what I love about my silly, sapling of a blog: it continually forces me out of my comfort zone. No one wants to read about the same recipes repeatedly, so novel foods are starting to dominate my kitchen. On this particular occasion, soup took center-stage.
I wanted to make something substantial, a soup that could stand on its own for dinner (perhaps with a little garlic toast to round it out). I wanted it to be hearty, but not heavy. After an hour of flipping through cookbooks, and searching on websites, I found the perfect recipe. My hunt came to an abrupt halt with the title alone: “Rosalynn Carter's Cream of Broccoli Soup-with No Cream.” Perhaps the title is a bit wordy, but it provides all the relevant information. For that, I cannot fault it. Plus, who am I to criticize the First Lady? I had to chuckle over how bewitched I became with this presidential recipe because my dad has been calling me “president” since my toddler days. Most little girls are nicknamed “sweetheart” or “sugar”; the Psycho Cooker is dubbed “president.” I had a laugh, but it’s probably best not to think too deeply on this bizarre anecdote.
Creamless Broccoli Soup, adapted from Rosalynn Carter’s recipe
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bay leaf
1 pound green broccoli, chopped
1 small potato, peeled and chopped
2 14-oz. cans reduced sodium chicken stock (about 3 ½ cups)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 lemon, juiced
Shredded cheddar cheese
Garlic cheese toast
§ In a large pot, sauté onion and garlic seasoned with salt and pepper in the oil until soft, about 8 minutes.
§ Add bay leaf, broccoli, potato, and stock. Simmer gently, covered for about 15 minutes, until the broccoli and potato are tender, but the broccoli is still green. Remove bay leaf and turn off the heat.
§ Carefully puree with an immersion blender*, leaving some texture. Or use a regular blender, pureeing it in small batches. Make sure to vent it slightly (or remove the round plastic piece of the lid), covering it with a kitchen towel to protect yourself from being splashed. If the blender is not vented, the heat will cause the pressure to build, and ultimately blow the lid off, which is dangerous and messy.
§ Season to taste; add lemon juice and return the pan to reheat if necessary.
§ Serve with shredded cheddar or cheese toast:
o Lightly toast a piece of whole wheat bread. While it is warm, rub it with a halved garlic clove. Lightly drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with cheese of your choice and return the bread to the toaster or broiler until the cheese has melted.
Comments: The soup was smooth, soothing, and hearty, without sitting in my stomach like a rock as a cream-based soup can. The bay leaf added depth, and the lemon makes all the flavors shine through. Next time, I would decrease the broth to 3 cups, or even a little less, so the soup would be thicker. However, the consistency was by no means unpleasant. In fact, I stashed a portion in the freeze, and I expect it will put a smile on my face one chilly night. I suppose the cheese and/or cheese toast aren’t mandatory, but their absence seems foolish to me. I, of course, included both. Think about it: you are essentially eating a giant bowl of broccoli for dinner; a little cheese is in order.
*See glossary for definitions