New Year’s Broccoli Soup
Happy New Year! Bonne année! Athbhliain faoi Mhaise Dhaoibh! Feliz Año Nuevo! ‘N all that stuff.
I hope your holidays were happy and fun and safe and indulgent. It’s the latter part that’s kind of the problem for me. I was very, very indulgent during the holidays …
“Hey Chuck, what’d ya do during the holidays?!”
“I got fat!”
Yes, a very unwise step onto the scale after New Year’s Day revealed that the 35 pounds I lost once upon a time have now all returned. It may have taken seven years to do so, but I am now once again the fat motherfrakker I was in January 2004. Sigh.
Some of it isn’t just fried seafood po-boys, of course. If I may quote my friend Erick Castro, who responded thusly to someone who observed that he had developed a beer belly, “That is a WHISKEY belly, and I consider it to be a significant investment!”
Well, one thing we can do to help shave off some of that blubber is to eat a bit more healthily, smaller portions and more green stuff. I came across recipes for a “detox” diet for January in Bon Appetit, some of which looked interesting but it’s an awful lot of work (three meals a day from scratch) for someone who has to work all day, plus a 2-hour roundtrip commute. I did get some good ideas from it and from other sources though, and last night I cobbled together a remarkably delicious soup from a few different recipes plus my own ideas. Wesly responded very positively to it, and with tweaks it can be done with meat, dairy-vegetarian style or even completely vegan.
For convenience I bought two 12-ounce bags of prepared, washed broccoli florets and a 5-ounce bag of washed baby spinach — 6 minutes in the steamer or 2-1/2 minutes each in the microwave. Easy peasy.
I know I’m a pain in the ass about making homemade chicken stock, but I am aware of the realities of time constraints. You can use a good-quality prepared stock — I like Kitchen Basics, which comes in cartons. Swanson’s Low-Sodium version is also pretty good, and a lot better than it used to be. Whatever you use, make sure it’s as low in sodium as possible.
If you want to make it a little less healthy you could use full-fat yogurt or even heavy cream. Vegans, you’re on your own for substituting this one, or you could just leave it out.
If you don’t think you like broccoli, or that it’s smelly (well, it kind of is, when you’re steaming it), fear not — all the other elements in this soup help rein it in, and it’s really delicious. Bright, balanced, very satisfying and really, really good for you. Here’s how I did it.
NEW YEAR’S BROCCOLI SOUP
1-1/2 pounds fresh broccoli florets.
5 ounces fresh spinach.
1 medium red onion, diced.
2 carrots, peeled and grated.
3-5 cloves garlic (to taste), minced.
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil.
1 one-inch piece of fresh ginger, chopped.
4 cups chicken stock or broth, preferably homemade.
6 ounces non-fat yogurt, preferably Greek-style.
Few pinches cumin, to taste.
Few pinches hot smoked Spanish paprika or ground chipotle chile, to taste.
Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
1 to 1-1/2 ounces prosciutto crudo, julienned (optional).
Heat the oil and sauté the onions, carrots and garlic until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Throw in the spinach for the final minute or so and cook until it’s wilted. Meanwhile, steam the broccoli until cooked but still crisp-tender, about 6 minutes.
In a blender or food processor, add the broccoli, onions, carrots, garlic, avocado, ginger and chicken stock, and blend until puréed. Transfer to a pot, stir in the yogurt and season with salt, pepper, cumin and paprika/chipotle to taste.
Serve 1 cup as a side dish or starter, or 2 cups as a whole meal. Optionally, top with julienned prosciutto, diced Spanish chorizo or a small amount of salumi or charcuterie.
YIELD: About 9 cups
Now, time to get my big ass back to the gym. Sigh. The very thought. I need a drink.