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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Soups for Spring

Soup is a wonderful food on a cloudy, snowy day in winter, but it can be an equally welcome choice when the sun is shining on an early spring day. As part of my experiment to see how many good meals I could get from one four pound chicken, I had some wonderfully concentrated broth (stock) to work with. Add in some showy bright bunches of broccoli on special and this was the ideal time for cream of broccoli soup.

Cream of Broccoli Soup

Canola oil
2 c chopped onion
1/2 c sliced celery
1 c peeled and diced potatoes (may use more if a thicker soup is desired)
6 c water
1 c rich chicken broth
1 T Worcestershire sauce
2 t mixed dried herbs (basil, rosemary, thyme, and marjoram, or your own mixture)
Seasoning salt and black pepper to taste
Broccoli stems—I used 11 1/2 oz, about 3 cups chopped
1/2 c flour
1 c water
Approximately 1 1/2 c dry milk powder
Broccoli flowerets—I used 9 1/2 oz, about 4 cups, cut into bite-sized pieces

1. In a large soup pot, sauté the onions and celery in the oil until golden brown. Stir in the potatoes and continue simmering for a few minutes. Turn the heat to medium and add the broth and 6 cups of water along with the seasonings. When the mixture has returned to a slow boil, add the broccoli stems, cover, and let simmer about 35 to 35 minutes, until the broccoli is very tender.
2. Working in batches, process the soup in a blender or food processor until it is a smooth puree. Return all the soup to the pan.
3. Combine the flour, water, and dry milk powder to make a smooth paste (add a little more water if the mixture is very thick) and stir into the soup. Continue stirring until the soup is thickened.
4. Steam the broccoli flowerets in the microwave for about 3 minutes or until just barely tender.
5. About 15 to 20 minutes prior to serving, stir the flowerets into the soup and taste for seasoning.
This recipe makes about a gallon of soup, enough for at least 8 servings.

Variations: if you prefer, the soup does not need to be pureed. Carrots, squash, or even sweet potatoes may be added in this version—I suggest eliminating them in the pureed version, as they will cause the puree to be a rather unattractive brown.
Two cups of grated cheddar or other sharp cheese may be stirred in with the flowerets.

Serve with crusty garlic bread rounds or plain saltine crackers and baby carrots for color contrast.

(The bread rounds? Just day old rolls that are sliced into rounds, brushed with a mixture of butter, olive oil, and crushed garlic and then toasted in the oven until light golden brown.)


Another spring soup that is especially good if you have a ham bone in the freezer from your Easter ham is Fresh Pea Soup. While I will save the full recipe for another time, you can use any basic split pea soup recipe but substitute frozen peas for the split peas, adding them near the end of the soup making process instead of at the beginning.

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