Years ago, when I was pregnant, advice books swore that smart moms-to-be ate broccoli three times a day.
It seemed a bit extreme, but I went with it. I’ve always loved broccoli, even if it does have an unfortunate aroma. It’s an excellent source of protein, calcium, iron, fiber and many vitamins and minerals.
It helps that it’s easy to cook, too. Broccoli does well steamed, roasted, grilled or sauteed. You can also boil it, as long as you don’t overdo it, which not only chases away nutrients and turns the vegetable to mush, but also amps up that funky smell.
Broccoli is the star of this substantial stick-to-your-ribs soup for fall. There’s some Canadian bacon in it, adding flavor, but it plays only a supporting role. Canadian bacon delivers that smoky taste — reminiscent of the hearth and fall leaves burning — without a ton of calories.
And just as this soup boasts smokiness without a lot of fat, it is thick and creamy without any butter, cream or flour. The trick? Puréeing the vegetables.
Any soup with enough vegetables will be creamy when you purée it, though I smuggled in a Yukon gold potato to assist the broccoli. A soup without a lot of cream or butter will not only be leaner, it also will taste that much more vividly of the vegetables. Cream and butter, much as I love them, tend to tamp down flavor.
The best tool is a blender. But if all you have is a food processor or an immersion blender, don’t worry. The finished soup won’t be quite as silky smooth, but it’ll still be delicious. And I’ve used every part of the broccoli, roasting some of the florets and adding them at the end for crunch and color.
I hope you will consider this mostly vegetable soup a suitable candidate for the main course at dinner. With some grilled or toasted country bread and a green salad on the side, I promise you will be plenty satisfied.
SMOKY CREAM OF BROCCOLI SOUP WITH SHARP CHEDDAR
2 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
¾ lb. Canadian bacon, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, sliced (about 1 cup)
2 lbs. fresh broccoli (4 cups small florets set aside, the rest, including the stalks, trimmed of tough skin and coarsely chopped)
1 small Yukon gold potato (about 6 oz.), scrubbed and thinly sliced
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice, or to taste
2 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
Heat the oven to 450 degrees.
In a large saucepan over medium, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the bacon and cook, stirring, for 6 to 8 minutes, or until slightly golden. Transfer to a bowl.
Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add another tablespoon of the oil and the onion to the pan, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened. Add the coarsely chopped broccoli (not the florets), potato and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes, stirring every so often, or until the broccoli and potatoes are very tender.
Meanwhile, on a rimmed baking sheet toss the florets with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil. Season with salt and pepper, then spread in an even layer. Roast in the top third of the oven for 5 minutes, or until lightly caramelized.
When the vegetables in the soup are tender, transfer the soup to a blender and purée, in batches, until smooth.
Return the soup to the saucepan, along with the roasted broccoli florets and the Canadian bacon. Add the lemon juice, then season with salt and pepper. Add water, if necessary, to achieve the desired texture. Ladle the soup into 4 shallow soup bowls and top each portion with some of the cheddar.
Serves 4 as a main course, 8 as a starter.