Rather than watering it down with milk and cream, or confusing its flavor with a tomato-laden broth, this soup is all about broccoli, from its florets to its stems to its leaves. You’ll get a big burst of the broccoli with each spoonful of the stuff, and that’s a somewhat new way to experience a vegetable that’s been around (and has been disdained, in many cases) for all our lives. It starts out with roasting the pieces to concentrate their flavor even more, and it has roasted garlic and shallots to cement that sweetened touch. A drizzle of distractingly good olive oil to finish and that’s your bowl packed with the power food. Eating your greens has never been easier.
For me, making soup has always been a good way of dispensing of heavy tolls of vegetables that may be in the fridge, and it can be frozen to reheat easily later. It saves more room than freezing some florets whole and it’s more adaptable to everyday eating than pickling. I just started tearing into Jonathan Bloom’s American Wasteland, which describes how Americans waste more than 40% of the food we produce. Sure, there are food casualties in everyone’s home kitchen, including mine. But a good, frozen soup is more appealing than a rubbery, wilted head of fresh produce.
pieces are tossed in olive oil and salt, and roasted until crisp
If there’s anything I’ve learned from going to markets and small specialty produce farms it’s that a heck of a lot of vegetables we think of as green have a weird purple twin. Green beans, kale, basil, okra, and now broccoli. What’s next, purple Christmas wreathes? I was at the Greenmarket the other day, inspecting this dichotomy while a man shopping at the same farm stand looked curiously at the multi-colored cauliflower. Do these taste the same? he wondered aloud, holding a head of green (yes, lime green) cauliflower, and I told him with a shrug that yes, they pretty much do. But then, feeling a little investigative, I bought a head of green broccoli to add to the purple broccoli I’d already gotten, to see if they would taste the same for myself.
Yes, they pretty much do. The purple color dulls a bit once it’s cooked. But raw broccoli, I was never a fan of.
Because I was in crazy-colored vegetable buying mode, I also picked up a bunch of rainbow carrots. I ended up using the most blood-red carrot in this soup, and it stained the broth an interesting purple tint. Next time, I think I’ll probably use the yellow or white carrots.
Feathery carrot greens came with that bunch, and I decided to use those up, too. So this soup has a puree of blanched carrot greens, with the roasted garlic and shallots. It all gets stirred into the vegetable stock.
Last step is adding the roasted broccoli pieces and letting them cook a while in the soup, to sink in the flavors. I ran a hand blender through the pot for just a few seconds to break them up a little at the end. This step is optional, though, and you can cut your broccoli florets even smaller before roasting them to skip this step, too.
It might seem like there are a lot of steps in this soup, but it creates a complex and savory taste. Definitely something to look forward to on cold nights when there’s nothing fresh in the refrigerator, but a pint of this frozen.
Broccoli & Roasted Garlic Soup
(makes 6-8 servings)
2 broccoli crowns, chopped to small “tree”-shaped pieces
8 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 heads garlic
1 small-medium onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
handful of carrot greens and broccoli greens (from the carrots/broccoli)
fresh thyme, sage, rosemary or any combination of fresh herbs for a bouquet garni
salt and pepper to taste
extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Slice off the bases of the garlic heads and shallots. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap in foil or place in a very small, oven-proof covered pot. Roast for 30-40 minutes. Remove and let cool.
Increase oven to 375 degrees. Toss broccoli pieces with a thin coat of olive oil and a couple pinches each of salt and pepper. Spread out on an even layer on a baking sheet and roast for about 10 minutes, or until gently browned. Set aside.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and prepare an ice bath. Blanche the carrot greens and broccoli leaves in the boiling water for about a minute, and transfer immediately to the ice bath. Drain. Transfer the greens to a food processor. Add the roasted garlic and shallots to the food processor (removing all the papery skins). Pulse several times until mixture is smooth (you may want to add a splash of the stock to help it break down).
Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pot with some olive oil and cook the chopped onion, carrot and celery, stirring occasionally, over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper. Add the stock, fresh herbs, and the greens and garlic puree. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Add the roasted broccoli and cook for about 20 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Remove bouquet garni and serve with an extra drizzle of good olive oil on each bowl.
(for 6-8 servings)
2 heads broccoli (at $2.50 each): $5.00
2 heads garlic: $1.00
2 shallots: $0.70
1 carrot: $0.30
1 celery stalk: $0.25
1 onion: $0.40
carrot greens/broccoli greens: came with above purchases, so $0
8 cups homemade vegetable stock: $3.00
fresh herbs (from plants): $0.50
salt, pepper, olive oil: $0.40
Three brownie points: There’s good reason why you were always told to eat your no-thank-you portion of broccoli growing up. It has such a well-rounded portfolio of vitamins and minerals, including calcium, iron, fiber, potassium, B-vitamins, and Vitamins C, K and A are off the charts. This soup also benefits from saving the leafy greens of carrots, and broccoli, if your crowns had any, to puree and blend into the broth.
Eight maple leaves: It’s a pretty easy feat getting all the ingredients for this soup from a wintery farmers’ market. So the only thing that wasn’t grown locally here was the olive oil and seasoning. I’ll give this one extra props for using the often unwanted parts of the vegetables, too, like the carrot and broccoli greens, in unsuspecting ways.