One of my favorite soups to order out is broccoli-cheddar soup, but since it is usually heavy on the cheese and cream, and light on vegetables, I try to abstain. Therefore, I was excited when I saw this recipe in this month's Cook's Illustrated. The whole point of this version is to give you lots of vegetable and broccoli flavor, with a hint of cheese. It is heavy on vegetables and light on cheese. It's reasonably healthy, and quite simple to prepare as well, so it makes it a double winner.
When developing this recipe, they wanted to highlight the broccoli. In order to do that and allow the broccoli to be incorporated into every bite, you basically have to cook the beejesus out of it. However, by cooking it for so long, the soup took on an unattractive grayish color. This is remedied by cooking the broccoli with baking soda - it causes it to cook faster while still retaining its bright color. Adding a handful of spinach towards the end of cooking also enhances the green hue. The soup is then pureed with both Parmesan and cheddar, and you are left with a bright green, velvety soup that is full of broccoli flavor.
With the weather starting to turn to spring, this soup is a great transition meal - warm and comforting soup with lots of bright and fresh flavor. I served this soup with turkey paninis, and we felt like we were in our own little cafe!
adapted from Cook's Illustrated, March/April 2011
- 2 Tbs unsalted butter
- 2 pounds broccoli - florets cut into small pieces, stalks peeled and chopped into small chunks
- 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
- pinch cayenne pepper
- kosher salt and black pepper
- 3-4 cups water
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
- 2 oz baby spinach (about 2 cups)
- 3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese, plus more for serving
- 3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Add the broth and 2 cups of water, and bring to a simmer. Add the spinach, and cook until wilted, about 1-2 minutes. Transfer half the soup to a blender with half the cheese, and puree until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer the soup to a medium bowl and repeat with the remaining soup. Return all the soup back to the pot, and bring to a light simmer. Thin the soup out with the remaining water if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve with additional cheddar.