This past Sunday while my boyfriend drank beer and watched football, I sat next to him on the couch and drank wine and flipped through old issues of the New Yorker. All in all it was a lovely afternoon: the Patriots won (I'm from New England), and I read a wonderful short story, "Broccoli," by Lara Vapnyar. In my opinion, there's nothing better than when a writer blurs the line between fiction and food: "But, most of all, Nina loved broccoli. It smelled of young spring grass, and it looked like a tree, with its hard solid stem and its luxuriant crown of tight, grainy florets. Nina bought a bunch of broccoli every week, along with various other vegetables. She carried big brown bags to her car, firmly believing that this weekend she would find time to cook."
Inspired by Vapnyar's eloquent, evocative prose, I decided to make the Creamy Broccoli Soup with Cheddar Crisps from February's Food & Wine for this week's magazine recipe review.
The recipe was part of an article about cooking on a budget. It was made up of extremely basic ingredients, the most expensive of which was the cheddar cheese. (A welcome discovery, seeing as how the other dish I was considering called for two pounds of lump crab meat—$40 at my local fish store.)
Since it was a simple pureed vegetable soup I was able to whip it up in about half an hour. I had some chicken stock on hand so I substituted it for 1 cup of the water. My cheese crisps looked just like the ones in the picture, although they cooked a bit faster, in about ten minutes as opposed to 18. After blending the soup and returning it to the pot to reheat, I tasted it and found it...exceedingly bland. I added a dash of cream, fresh pepper, and a serious amount of salt. Much better, though if you're looking for a soup that packs a powerful flavor punch, this isn't the one to make. It would best be served as a precursor to a spicy shrimp dish, or a hearty salad with lots of assertive ingredients.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 white onion, chopped
- 3 celery ribs, sliced crosswise
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 1/2 lbs broccoli, cut into florets
- 3 1/2 cups water (or 1 cup stock and 2 1/2 cups water)
- Pinch of fresh pepper
- Copious amount salt
- Dash of cream
- Cheddar Crisps (recipe follows)
- 4 ounces (1 cup) coarsely shredded cheddar cheese
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, celery, and garlic and cook over medium heat until soft, about 7 minutes. Add the broccoli, water, and stock, if using, and bring to a boil. Simmer 10 minutes, or until broccoli is tender. Working in batches, transfer the contents of the saucepan to a blender and puree until smooth. Return to saucepan and reheat to desired temperature. Season with pepper and salt. Stir in cream, if using. Serve with Cheddar Crisps.
- makes 8 -
Preheat oven to 350° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the cheese in 8 2-inch circles. Bake until dark gold in color, about 10 to 15 minutes. Allow to cool before removing from sheet.