Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

A surprisingly tasty–because I had low expectations–broccoli cheese soup. And it’s healthy too–no cream!

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Broccoli soup isn’t sexy, but it can be delicious. I had a bowl yesterday for lunch with a roasted eggplant, provolone and pesto mayo pita bread sandwich. I was very happy.

I found this recipe in the March/April issue of Cook’s Illustrated (page 12). Gone are the days of multiple food magazine subscriptions. I just did a count in my head; at one point I had eight cooking magazines coming in each month. Now that I’ve matured, I’m much more reasonable. I only get Cook’s Illustrated (a Christmas gift from my parents) and Eating Well. I still do like having a magazine to read in my hands. I’m old fashioned, I guess.

I was in the mood for broccoli and felt like making a soup, but I wasn’t expecting much. Surprise surprise, this soup exceeded my expectations. If you follow Cook’s Illustrated, you know how they test every variation of a recipe to get it just right. That’s why this soup has a lovely green color (not drab like most broccoli soups) and a bright sweet flavor. It’s not a heavy soup. No cream is added, just a small amount of cheese.

If you’re wondering why baking soda is listed in the ingredients, don’t fret. According to CI’s science editor, it “accelerates the breakdown of the broccoli’s cells walls and more quickly transforms the sulfurous compounds into more pleasant ones.” The spinach adds color. They’re so crafty, those CI chefs.

The original recipe instructs you to puree the soup in batches in a blender. But please, put an immersion blender on your buy list or wish list so you can use that instead. I don’t use mine for anything other than soups but for that alone it’s worth the purchase. Just one word of warning – don’t lift the blender head out of the soup while you’re using it, unless you want to splatter the walls and your shirt with green goop.

Broccoli Cheese Soup recipe | Grabbing the Gusto

Broccoli Cheese Soup | Grabbing the Gusto

Broccoli Cheese Soup

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 pounds broccoli, chopped into 1 inch pieces (include the stems, cut into 1/2” pieces)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons dry mustard powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Salt
  • 3-4 cups water
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 oz baby spinach, stems removed (about 2 cups)
  • 3 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1-1/2 oz parmesan cheese, grated (about 3/4 cup)
  • Black pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat butter over medium-high heat. Add broccoli, onion, garlic, mustard, cayenne and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir frequently and cook until fragrant, about 6 minutes. Add 1 cup water and baking soda and bring to a simmer. Lower heat and cook until broccoli is very soft, about 20 minutes.

Add broth and 2 cups water and increase heat to medium high. Bring to a simmer, then stir in spinach and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Add cheeses and blend soup with an immersion blender (or, you can transfer soup to a blender and blend in batches).

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Original recipe: Broccoli-Cheese Soup, Cooks Illustrated, March/April 2011, video — recipe requires log-in/online CI membership

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