2.23.2013

Creamy Broccoli Soup for a Winter's Night

Every once in a while, I revisit a recipe from my mother's cookbook, From Mom's Kitchen. I very rarely make any changes; mostly her recipes are just right as written and, more than anything, they remind me of her.

This broccoli soup is one that I generally don't change. It was always perfect when she made it. Creamy, rich, flavorful.

I made this often when I was in college - the ingredients were easy to find and it was hearty and filling. All my friends thought I was a genius... if they only knew how easy it is to make soup!

I was recently back at my alma mater - the Eastman School of Music/University of Rochester. There wasn't a grocery store anywhere near the school yet, somehow, in my student days I managed to shop and cook on occasion.

My arsenal was small then, limited to one or two pots and pans I could borrow from the front desk of the residence hall. Also, I didn't have the money to buy lots of herbs and spices, so I had only the basics: dried herbs such as basil, thyme, and oregano, and then some cinnamon, salt, and pepper.

When I made this soup then, I used only thyme. I had no idea what marjoram even tasted like. Yet, now, I am keenly aware that it is the marjoram that gives this soup its distinct floral overtones.

My awareness of fresh herbs has appreciated since moving to Tucson. I now have a garden of herbs that Mark planted and tends, ideal for moments like this. Mom rarely used fresh herbs because they weren’t readily available in those days. Much has changed in our markets and home gardens.

Once, I remember Mom bringing home some fresh rosemary for a rack of lamb (her recipe for that will come in the spring…). We stared at it as if we had just purchased something rare and exotic, and I remember the incredible aroma as she chopped it for the first time.

How we take our fresh rosemary for granted these days! We live where it grows year-round into shrubs. And our thyme. And marjoram.

So, the only “upgrade” I made in this soup was using fresh herbs over dried. If Mom were alive today, I am pretty sure she would have opted for fresh, too.

Thanks, Mom - another great soup night from your cookbook!

~ David

Cream of Broccoli Soup

1 pound fresh broccoli crowns
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour
4 cups whole milk
4 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh marjoram

Trim broccoli into 1-inch florets. Cut the stems into 1/4-inch slices. Add the stems to the bottom of a steaming basket, then place florets on top. Steam for 5-minutes or until broccoli is very tender. Fill a large bowl with ice and water and, when broccoli is done, refresh it in the ice water to keep the color bright. Drain and set aside.

Melt butter in a large soup kettle. Add onion and celery and cook over medium heat until onion turns golden - about 8 minutes. Season with the salt.

Add flour to the pot, stir, and cook for 1 minute to "toast" the flour. Slowly add milk - stirring constantly - then add stock. Let cook over medium heat, stirring often, until it thickens.

Add herbs and broccoli and continue to cook until piping hot. (Mom used to always use the term "piping hot" - a phrase as old as Chaucer's The Miller's Tale - meaning that food was so hot it made a high-pitched whistling sound, perhaps like a tea kettle or - well - a bagpipe!)

Serve in heated bowls with a loaf of crusty French bread.

Makes 6-8 servings.

8 comments:

  1. I had no idea when the origin of the term "piping hot" was until now. I use it often enough! it may not be soup weather in this hemisphere but I wouldn't hesitate knocking up your Mom's soup as soon as those cool temperatures move in.

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  2. I just realized that I never had cream of broccoli soup, it usually ends up on a pasta and with garlic (the horror). I love this recipe David, and it has milk which is so much better than cream. Probably why I never look at cream of... soups, I think cream is better on pasta or desserts. I need to plant some herbs in my terrace, they make all the difference. Have a great day both of you!

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  3. I hope Appy names this while I'm away this week...and saves some for me! Love the wonderful photos, too!

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  4. John - it was fun to look up "piping hot" - another version is that it is an onomatopoetic creation for the "puh, puh, puh" sound a pot lid makes as the stew cooks beneath it. Not too long before you will be having soup and we will be back in fresh fruit again!

    Paula - for all the butter my mother used, many of her soups were finished with milk - even her chowders. She felt they should never be too heavy! I have really been in soup mode lately!

    Susan - I hope Appy does make this (and "name" it) for you while you at away. It gets better after a few days in the fridge, like most good soups! xox

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  5. Armenian dishes, as all Mid-East dishes, are rich in herbs. Growing up, we were spoiled with fragrant stews that Mom & both Grandmas made. YUM

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  6. Colette - how lucky to have had that incredible culinary history form your mother and grandmothers!

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  7. Did you really mean 1/2 cup flour?
    The photo is of 1/4 cup flour.
    Can't wait to make this one! : )
    Lots of lovely broccoli in the markets here at the moment.
    Cloe in Malta

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  8. Hello, Clotilde! Yes, I did use 1/2 cup - and very good catch on teh measurement on the cup! I was out of clean 1/2-cup measures, so I used 2! If you use 1/4 cup, the soup is thinner. Thanks for stopping by Cocoa and Lavender!

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Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really appreciate hearing from you and welcome any ideas you may have for future posts, too. Happy Cooking!

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