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Monday, January 19, 2009

Broccoli Soup and Poor Man's Garlic Toast

After writing about all the uses of broccoli stems, it seemed like a good idea to make some broccoli soup. The cold weather we've been having is perfect for soup, and I had everything I needed to make a large pot of it. Alongside, I made "Poor Man's Garlic Toast" from the ends of ten loaves of bread; last night I helped make grilled cheese sandwiches for about 60 to 70 people and had all the leftover ends to use up.

Broccoli Soup
1 T (or less) peanut or canola oil
1 large onion, chopped (about 9 oz)
1 large rib celery, chopped (about 3 oz)
1/3 c chicken broth (optional)
water
1 medium potato (about 5 oz)
1 packet chicken seasoning OR 1 or 2 bouillon cubes
1/2 T chopped garlic (I used the bottled kind today, but fresh is always good)
1 1/2 t mixed herbs (see NOTE)
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 t salt
1/2 t black pepper (or less)
1 pound broccoli stems, diced (about 4 cups)
2 c instant nonfat dry milk powder
7 oz broccoli crowns, cut in small flowerets (about 2 to 3 cups)

Saute onion and celery in oil until just translucent, about 5 minutes. Add broth, 2 cups of water, the potato, garlic, and seasonings. Cook on medium high heat about 10 minutes and stir in the chopped broccoli stems and 4 to 5 more cups of water. Taste for seasoning and turn heat to medium low. Allow to simmer for up to an hour, until broccoli is very tender. Stir dry milk powder into 2 more cups of water and add to soup. Remove soup from heat and allow to cool slightly.

While soup is cooling, prepare flowerets by cutting into small (less than an inch) pieces. Place in a microwave-safe bowl with 1 -2 tablespoons water, cover and steam in microwave for 2 to 3 minutes, until just barely tender.

When soup has cooled a little, place in processor or blender in small batches and process until quite smooth. Return to pan and return to a low simmer. Stir in broccoli flowerets and water from steaming, and cook for another 5 minutes or so, until the soup is heated through.

Serve with grated cheddar cheese and freshly grated pepper if desired. This makes enough for 6 to 8 people, depending on how often they want to refill their bowls.

NOTE: I make my own mixed herb seasoning to use in many soups, casseroles, and stir fries. I combine 1 T rosemary, 1 T thyme, 1 1/2 T basil and 2 t marjoram (all dried ) in a mortar and pestle and mix thoroughly. I transfer this to a shaker bottle for storing. If you don't want to go to the trouble of doing this ahead of time, just crush a pinch of each of these herbs (or your own favorite blend) between your fingers and add to the soup.

Poor Man's Garlic Toast
Spread:
1/4 c butter
1/4 c olive oil
3 to 4 cloves garlic, crushed
salt (optional)
Melt butter in microwave and stir in olive oil. Add garlic and salt. This is best is made ahead so that it cools to a nice spreading consistency and the garlic has time to permeate the entire mixture.

Bread:
Use the ends--heels--of any kind of bread, leftover hot dog or hamburger buns, or whatever bread you have that may be getting a little stale. Spread one side of each piece liberally with the slightly solidified butter-oil mixture. If using bread slices, cut in quarters for square little cracker-like servings.


Assembly:
After spreading, put the bread on a baking sheet and bake in a 350 to 375 degree oven until the bread is crispy and golden. Serve immediately, with soup, spaghetti, or any place you would use the more traditional garlic bread.

Extra spread stores well in the refrigerator, so make a larger batch and keep it on hand.


Between the leftover broccoli stems and the bread ends that would have otherwise been thrown away, this meal seemed like almost free food. By using these low cost ingredients, I was able to justify the cost of the butter. (I could also justify the calorie/fat cost too, since the soup is quite low fat if served without cheese and with water substituted for the broth.)

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