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Very Green Broccoli Soup

This soup is unbelievable – it’s now one of my top 5 favorite soups.  I served it for dinner last night and it was so good.  When I first looked at the ingredients I said to myself – looks pretty healthy, but may end up being a bit bland. This soup is anything but. The lemon zest gives it a wonderful zing.   I also had lemon thyme on hand from the garden on Shelter Island, which I believe added to the zing.  What a great way to serve vegetables! I ate two bowls tonight and look forward to having more tomorrow. Now if I could only get the boys to eat it. Does anyone have any ideas for getting picky eaters to try new things short of ordering them to do it? I’ve tried that and our dinner table becomes a battlefield – no fun.  Any and all suggestions welcome.    I love to cook, and end up making what I think are beautiful dinners to have four little noses turn up when I present them.  Ugh.

When I made this, I saved time by buying a bag of broccoli florets – a bit more expensive, but it made the soup much easier to prepare – no peeling broccoli stems!  I’m looking forward to having more of this for lunch today.

Very Green Broccoli Soup
Adapted from recipe by Michael Chiarello

1 1/2 pounds broccoli
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 cup (1/4-inch) diced onion
1/2 cup (1/4-inch) diced celery
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves (*I used lemon thyme which was delicious)
5 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
2 cups packed fresh spinach
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
1 cup half and half

Cut the broccoli florets from the stems. Peel the tough outer skin from the stems and trim off the fibrous ends. Cut the stems lengthwise into slices about 1/2-inch thick and then crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a soup pot over medium-high heat until hot. Add the garlic and cook until light brown. Add the onion and celery, lower the heat to medium, and season with salt and pepper. Cook the vegetables slowly until tender, about 10 minutes. Regulate the heat so the vegetables cook without taking on color.

Add the thyme and stir. Add the broccoli stems, stock, and salt and pepper, to taste, and bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, for about 3 minutes or so. Add the florets and continue to cook until very tender, about 10 minutes more.

Puree the soup in a blender in small batches. Add some of the spinach and some of the lemon zest to each batch and then puree it. (The soup can be made to this point, covered, and refrigerated for up to 1 day or frozen for up to 1 month.)

Return the soup to the pan and reheat over gentle heat. Stir in the cream. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

Yield:  4 – 6 servings