Spring has officially sprung and my thoughts go to all foods “green”—today it’s broccoli, but more particularly, broccoli stalks/broccoli stems, with added “trees” for deeper green color.  I title this soup “cream” because it is a pureed soup that does not contain cream or milk or for that matter any other ordinary  broccoli soup additions, like cheddar cheese, so popular at Panera.  Calories will be much less with no cream or cheese!  And you control the sodium when you make this at home.

Recently, I observed a friend preparing broccoli for dinner.  She set aside the large stalks, ready to throw away and was cutting the trees into smaller pieces.  I asked if I could show her how to peel the tough outer skin away from the stems—so easy with a small knife.  Then I had her taste a piece of the peeled stem.  She was  amazed how crunchy n’ sweet it was.

Cheerleading for this soup is easy once it is tasted.  Ingredients are ordinary—rice, onion, celery, chicken broth or vegetable broth.  Best served in a coffee mug or disposable plastic squat cup—this soup is perfect for a picnic in the park, an afternoon snack by the pool or a first course at dinner instead of a salad, or even announced as a sip soup for an appetizer  served around the coffee table.

The surprise ingredient that ads to a hard-to-identify by oh-so- good flavor boost is a dash of cayenne pepper which lends the soup to serving hot, cold or at room temperature, wherever the location.

So here is the catch—to puree the soup,  I recommend a blenderizer, a hand-held electric immersion blender to puree the ingredients.  It eliminates the mess of transferring the liquid to a blender or food processor and back to the soup pot.  If you don’t have one, put it on your birthday or Christmas list.  (Some years ago I purchased a 5-speed Calphalon Immersion Blender and it still works very well. (The company no longer manufactures immersion blenders but Amazon lists many other companies that do. )

I introduce my Skillet Roasted Broccoli method for best broccoli and broccoli stems for this soup or for any broccoli side dish, tart, quiche, etc..

“Cream” of Broccoli Soup

The “cream” in this soup is the small amount of rice that is cooked with the onion and celery that is then pureed—quite the calorie savings.

Makes 4-6 servings.

½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2-3 broccoli stalks, plus several broccoli tops (for deeper color)

1/3 cup water

½ teaspoon kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon butter

1 small onion, peeled and roughly chopped

2 stalks celery, including leaves, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons uncooked white rice

1 cup chicken broth

½ cup water

Dash of cayenne pepper

1½ cups chicken broth

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Peel the stalks, starting at the bottom using a small knife and pulling away the tough fibrous cover as you glide the knife to the top of the stalk.  Discard peel. The outer skin is the tough part of the stems.   Rough chop the stems and measure 2-3 cups.

In a large skillet (with a tightly fitting cover near-by), heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, swirling the oil to evenly coat the bottom.  Push the stalk pieces from the cutting board with the side of a knife into the pan.  Stir well and sprinkle with kosher salt and several turns of pepper mill.   Sauté (skillet-roast) one minute at medium-high heat.  Add broccoli tops.  Skillet-roast another minute to develop flavor. Some browning will appear. Pour water into pan and immediately cover.  Set timer for 3 minutes.  At that time, the water should be evaporated and the broccoli tender.  Remove cover. Set aside.

In a medium sized saucepan, melt butter.  Add onion and celery and sauté to slightly soften and develop flavor.  Add rice.  Stir to coat.  Pour in broth and water with the cayenne pepper.  Cover and simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes.

Blenderize the vegetable/rice mixture.  Add reserved broccoli and remaining broth.  Blenderize.  Taste for seasoning.  Season with kosher salt and pepper.

Serve garnished with tiny broccoli bits or 2 tablespoons plain yogurt mixed with lemon zest. Or garnish with pesto, if desired.


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