Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fall and a Few of My Favorite Things

I am a big fan of when the seasons change. There's just something wonderful about witnessing nature in motion, the shift from one mode to the next. Shifting gears into fall is especially wonderful. I love the way it smells when the leaves start to change and then fall. I love the crisp cool air and snuggling up in a broken in hoodie. I love all of the harvest fruits and veggies: crisp sweet apples, round pumpkins and warm butternut squash. I certainly love the holidays that come with the season, particularly Halloween, and then Thanksgiving.

One of my other favorite things is making soup. Its the perfect cool weather food. It always seems so warm and inviting, often invigorating, and just darn tasty.

I have been craving some Cheddar Broccoli Soup, from Panera Bread, but since there isn't one close by I made this version from scratch. Its less cheesy and has more of a focus on the broccoli, but I'm OK with that.

Cheddar Broccoli Soup

4 Tbsp Butter
1 1/2 cup Celery, diced
1 cup Onion, diced (about one large onion)
3 cup Yukon Gold Potatoes, diced
1 1/2 lb Broccoli, chopped
2 Tbsp Flour
4 Cups vegetable stock
2 cups Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup Half and Half or Cream

Start by melting the butter in the bottom of a large pot over medium low heat. Add the celery and onion and saute until tender and translucent. Stir in the potatoes and broccoli pieces and cover and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the vegetable stock and turn up the temp to medium high and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for about 25 - 30 minutes or until the broccoli and potato pieces are tender. Turn the heat back down to low.

At this point is where you would want to puree the soup if you like yours creamy. A food processor or blender should do the trick, just be extra careful because it is hot! Ladle the broccoli and potatoes into your device of choice, making sure there is plenty of liquids as well. Pulse the mixture a few times to get it going, then puree until smooth. if it seems to thick, add more liquid. Watch out for steam when you open the lid. I usually puree about half of the soup so that there are still some small chunks of broccoli and potato still in the soup, enough so that you can tell what is in it.

Pour the puree back into the pot and re-warm to an almost simmer. If the soup is too hot when you add the cheese, the cheese could separate and become very unpleasant. That said, add the shredded cheese, one small handful at a time, stirring after each addition. Don't add the next handful until the cheese is completely melted in. Once the cheese has been incorporated stir in the half and half until smooth and lovely.

And that's it! Garnish with some more shredded cheese and serve with garlic toast.

N.B. I usually use fresh broccoli florets or crowns, which you can find in the produce section of your local grocery store, but a bag of frozen broccoli florets would be a good alternative if your fresh broccoli isn't so fresh. Just thaw first and add to the pot after the potatoes have been simmering for a good 10 to 20 minutes, as the frozen broccoli will cook quicker.