An Elegant Broccoli Soup

Just in time for St. Patrick's Day. A beautiful green broccoli soup.

Veggies tend to build up in our refrigerator. With the very best of intentions, we subscribe to a CSA produce box that arrives every other week. In the off weeks, we wander over to the Sunday farmer’s market to supplement. Certain that we will gorge ourselves on fresh produce, we accumulate food we know we should be eating. Once in a while we fall out of cycle because of meals out or travel and all our good intentions catch up with us.

We recently received a beautiful head of broccoli in our farm box that, after a week in the fridge, needed attention before it faded and became compost. Jason recommended soup and since we had a fresh batch of chicken stock on hand, it was the perfect solution. Mind you, the chicken stock was made from the leftover bones and carcass of a roasted chicken from Limon Rotisserie which means the resultant stock was ultra savory. But while the Limon bones aren’t something everyone has access to, you can make extra savory soup broths by simmering lots of aromatic vegetables, fresh and dry herbs and plenty of spices. With just the right amount of sea salt, a decent broth can be made extraordinary.

So, the leftover broth went into a soup pot where it was brought to a simmer on the stove. Once hot, we added the broccoli stems to cook before adding the florets which can lose their color if cooked too long. With this soup, we let the stock and stems cook down to concentrate the flavors. In went the florets and a little water before covering the pot to bring it back up to temperature. The broccoli needed to cook long enough to become tender without turning khaki. It probably took about 10 minutes for it to soften enough before going into a blender where it was pureed until smooth. My first instinct was to strain the puree through a fine mesh sieve, but I wasn’t happy with the consistency of the watery soup it produced so I added the pulp back to the pan along with the liquid. The puree was fine enough that there were no unpleasant fibers in the finished soup so why waste the nutrient dense broccoli?

While tasty, the soup seemed to be missing something and for a minute I considered adding vinegar or lemon juice, both of which would have been fine, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. Then it hit me – BUTTER! Not just any fat would do. Extra virgin olive oil would certainly add flavor, but it was the wrong flavor for this delicate vegetable soup. No, this needed what any good professional kitchen would consider indispensable and that’s plenty of sweet, unsalted butter. So, back into the blender the soup went. Still steaming hot I separated it into two batches and then blended each with two tablespoons of butter. The finished soup was velvety and rich without being oily. It was perfect!

Broccoli Soup

6 cups savory chicken or vegetable stock (or a combination of broth and water)

1 large head broccoli, stems and florets separated

4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring the stock to a boil and add the stems of the broccoli. Cook for about 10 minutes than add the florets. Cook for another 10 minutes. Transfer ½, or so, of the soup to a blender and puree until very smooth. Add two tablespoons of cold butter and continue to puree for another minute. Transfer to a new pot and do the same with the remaining broccoli and stock. Warm the soup slightly before serving.

Soup Time

Simple SoupBroccoli Soup

Soup is one of those essential foods – it’s easy to make, it’s comforting and if it’s made well, very satisfying. Vegetable soups are probably the easiest to make. When you think about what soup is it’s hard to imagine a simpler cooking method. Vegetables are chopped and cooked ‘till just right in some sort of liquid – water or broth – and maybe finished with some milk or butter or cream to add richness.

For the last couple of weeks, the CSA box we receive from Farm Fresh to You has arrived with some very large broccoli stems with very small florets. We could have simply chopped up the stems and sautéed them with a bit of garlic but these stems were big, really big, and so I thought instead of letting them rot in the fridge I would create another soup to freeze and eat at a later date. I can’t really say the recipe is another Bittman-inspired treat (I looked up his recipe when I was just about done) but his cream of broccoli soup recipe contains most of what I’ve included here. I keep his cookbook on our shelf for that “just in case” moment when I think I might need a recipe reminder.

The vegetable broth I made starts with the vegetable “scraps” I keep in the fridge. I’ve learned to save the odds and ends leftover from other recipes just for this purpose. “Waste not, want not” has been my motto for a while and in this economy it’s the perfect practice. Since I’m also working tonight it will be a great quick meal for S., along with a sandwich.

Cream of Broccoli Soup

Olive oil
1 medium onion chopped
1 pound of broccoli
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon flour
4-6 cups vegetable broth
1-2 cups whole milk or cream
Salt & pepper

Sauté the onion in olive oil in a heavy bottom stockpot until translucent, 4-5 minutes. Peel the broccoli stems and cut into small pieces, keep the florets separate. Add the chopped stems and cook another 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the flour and cook again for about 1 minute. Add the vegetable broth and stir. Bring to simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender.

Remove from heat and puree the soup in a blender in batches. Add the soup back to the stockpot, add florets and allow the soup to cook a couple of minutes. Finally, add the milk or cream and finish with a little salt and pepper to taste.