Broccoli Cheese Soup You Actually Want to Eat

Broccoli cheese soup sounds like something that your college or office cafeteria would dump from an industrial-sized can into an enormous vat once a week or so, inspiring you to say, “Oh I guess I didn’t want soup after all today.” And if you did make the mistake of ordering it, your stomach would feel vaguely upset and there’d be a bad taste in your mouth for the rest of the afternoon.

It’s one of those dishes that I considered pretty much beyond redemption (if I considered it at all) until two events coalesced. First, my friend Lacey went on a low-carb vegetarian diet. Considering that many of the dishes I cook for her revolve around rice and/or beans, this was a challenge albeit a welcome one since it gave me an opportunity (ie excuse) to read even more cook books and recipes than I already read. Broccoli cheese soup is just about perfect for this diet. Second, Cook’s Illustrated ran a broccoli cheese soup recipe this month that actually sounded good.

It turned out to be a revelation. The substance it produced in no way resembled the gluey, bland substance that oozes out of a super market soup can. It was instead fresh, flavorful and, most shocking of all, probably pretty healthy, especially since it contains a large amount of broccoli and a minimal amount of cheese. Nor does it contain cream, although you wouldn’t guess it from the smooth texture. Finally, it is probably one of the prettiest soups I have made. Canned cream-based soups take on the pallor of a drunk’s complexion at closing time. This Cook’s Illustrated version is a bright broccoli green that reminded me that spring is around the corner.

Broccoli Cheese Soup

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, March & April 2011

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 pounds broccoli, florets chopped to one-inch pieces, stems peeled and cut into 1/4 inch slinces

1 onion, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 and 1/2 tsp dried mustard powder

pinch cayenne pepper

table salt

3-4 cups water

1/4 tsp baking soda

2 cups vegetable broth

2 ounces spinach  (I used frozen and didn’t even need to thaw it)

3 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about 3/4  cup) (I used low-fat)

1 and1/2 ounce Parmesan cheese grated fine (3/4 cup)

ground black pepper

Heat butter in Dutch oven over medium high heat. When foaming subsides, add broccoli, onion, garlic, dry mustard, cayenne and 1 tsp salt. Cook, stirring frequently, 6 minutes. Add 1 cup water and baking soda. Bring to simmer, cover and cook on low 20 minutes, until broccoli is very soft.

Add broth and 2 cups water. Increase to medium high. When water simmers, add spinach and cook until it wilts.

Add cheeses. Puree soup using a hand-held blender or a processor or regular blender. (I used a handheld blender). Once the soup is pureed, return it to a simmer. Cook’s Illustrated suggests adding up to 1 cup of additional water to adjust the consistency. I didn’t add any. Add pepper and additional salt to taste. Serve with extra Parmesan.


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4 Responses to Broccoli Cheese Soup You Actually Want to Eat

  1. Amy says:

    This does sound good, and I share your dislike of other broccoli cheese soups. I can just see them splurping out of a can in one solid glop. Yuck. I’ll have to try this one! It looks fast, too, which would be good for me at this point.

  2. hollycooking says:

    Broccoli cheese soup seems like something they would serve at Solway House or Vineyard Lodge. (Not this one of course!)

  3. Alan Bunce says:

    Nope, sorry, still don’t want to eat it — can’t shake the college dining hall association…

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