Apart from baking, I love to make soups, especially on those cold, rainy, winter days when the only thing that sounds appetizing is a bowl of something hot and steamy. Of course, those brisk days of fall are excellent for soup making as well, especially when all varieties of squash are piled high in mounds at the farmers' market, enticing me with their smooth surfaces, their plump curves, their tough rinds protecting the sweet flesh within, wanting to purchase much more than is needed. Even now, just thinking about it, I'm tempted to roll out the ingredients for a batch of my butternut squash soup, but I'll save the urge for another post another day.
Right now, in the midst of California's storm season, we're concerned with broccoli soup, a soup that looks homely enough but is full of flavor and quite satisfying, made even more so with a piece or two of toast on the side. It's more appropriate for the time of year than squash, I think. This is a recipe that I've tweaked a bit to suite my own tastes and simpler way of preparing dishes. Soup is all about comfort for me, so I'm not about to make much ado about garnishes and flourishes that just sink to the bottom of the bowl, despite how pretty they look.
This is the best way to eat broccoli, if you really want to know -- thick and creamy and laced with white cheddar, it keeps you warm without filling your stomach too full like really hearty soups do. It calls for lots cheese, so what's not to like? This is a soup you could easily savor on a lazy day, over a long weekend, when you aren't worrying about exercising. It comes together pretty quickly, so it's a good option when you want homemade soup, fast (if homemade soup can be considered "fast"). Leftovers taste just as good as it does the day the soup's made, so don't worry about finishing it off right away. Often I'll make a batch of soup for dinner one night, then each day afterward have another bowl for lunch, watching it slowly diminish until, much to my chagrin, it's gone.
When sauteing the onions for the soup, I use olive oil instead of butter, although technically a roux (used to thicken soups and sauces, as it's used here) is made with butter and flour, not oil and flour, but the oil works for me. With milk and cheese in the mix, olive oil cuts back on the dairy a bit. And, since I prefer my pureed soups slightly thicker than the norm, I use lots of broccoli. If you have any questions about anything, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below each post.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma: Soups, Salads, and Starters
2 - 3 Tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
¼ cup all-purpose flour
5 cups chicken stock (or vegetable, if you prefer), heated
2 lb broccoli, trimmed, coarsely chopped
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 cups milk, preferably whole
½ lb aged white cheddar (such as Cabot), grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large saucepan, heat two tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute until it begins to brown. Sprinkle flour over the onions and saute for one minute, stirring constantly, adding remaining tablespoon of oil if dry. Slowly pour in the stock, whisking continuously. Add the broccoli, thyme, and lemon juice, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until broccoli is tender, about 20 minutes.
Once the broccoli is tender, puree soup in a blender in 3 to 4 batches (or use an immersion blender directly in the pan if you have one), return to pan, and stir in the milk. Bring to a simmer over low heat. Add cheese, stirring until it melts and blends in. Season to taste with salt and pepper.