The weekend before Christmas, I had an unexplained hankering to go to the farmers’ market. Stupidly, especially considering we were flying out in less than 48 hours for a nine-day trip, I bought some potatoes and a few beautiful heads of broccoli.
Of course, by the night before our departure, we had eaten exactly none of the spuds or the broccoli. The potatoes would keep, but I couldn’t bear the thought of coming home to withered yellow broccoli. I knotted up its plastic bag and flung it in the freezer, crossing fingers that it would still be edible upon our return.
Fast forward to our return to Savannah. It actually dropped below freezing last night, and everyone is sniffly and grumbling. In other words: soup is in order.
The broccoli came out of the freezer in a sad state: limp and watery, with fibrous stalks. Roasting seemed out of the question, so a cream soup was the next order of business.
The second I hit this soup with my immersion blender, I realized that broccoli cheddar soup as I knew it–a pale, thick, orangey substance suspending stray broccoli florets–probably doesn’t contain much broccoli at all. In contrast, this soup is a silky bright green, light in the spoon yet rich on the tongue with a whisper of heat from the wasabi. In other words, just that balance of freshness and comfort I crave in January.
And yes, I put wasabi in this soup. Here’s why:
Dry mustard is a fabulous additive to cheese sauces to highlight the flavor of the cheese. Though wasabi is technically horseradish, I think of it as Japanese mustard. You can add just a little wasabi to coax out the tanginess of the cheddar, or a bit more for that unmistakable wasabi zip. Either way, go slowly and taste frequently to make sure you don’t overdo it.
And finally, cheese croutons. I’m not going to mislead you: these received mixed reviews in our household. I gobbled them straight from the pan while J complained about my tendency to ruin a good thing with oddball toppings. Next time I’ll make cheese toast soldiers as an accompaniment and everyone will be happy.
Until then, stay warm and well with a chill-banishing bowl of this soup.
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pound broccoli, stems and florets, chopped roughly
- 2 1/2 - 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 3 ounces extra-sharp cheddar
- 3/4 cup half-and-half
- wasabi, to taste
- 2 slices gluten-free bread
- drizzle of olive oil
- salt & pepper
- .5 ounces grated sharp cheddar
- For Soup: Heat olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute 3-4 minutes until translucent. Add broccoli and garlic and cook another 2 minutes, stirring, until broccoli begins to soften.
- Add 2 1/2 cups broth and season with a bit of salt and pepper. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat so mixture barely simmers and cook 15 minutes with the lid on.
- Check to make sure broccoli is cooked through and blend soup, either in the pot with an immersion blender (easier), or in the blender with the lid partially off (potential for disaster if you don't let it cool off first--trust me).
- Return blended soup to pot, turn heat to medium-low, and add half-and-half, cheese, and a small amount* of wasabi. Taste and adjust salt and pepper, and add more wasabi or broth if you like.
- For croutons: Preheat oven to 400F. Pour olive oil into a small mixing bowl with a shake of salt and pepper. Chop bread into 1/2" cubes and toss in the olive oil mixture. When evenly coated, spread on a baking sheet and bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven, scatter grated cheese evenly across the top, and bake another 3-4 minutes until cheese is melted and starting to turn crispy, and croutons are browned and crunchy. Remove from oven and allow to cool while you finish the soup.
- To serve, spoon soup into bowls, garnish with cheese croutons, and eat.
- My wasabi was a mild Americanized version--essentially wasabi mayo--and I used approximately 2 teaspoons. If you're using the stronger authentic or powdered stuff, start off with a half teaspoon blended with a bit of broth and go from there.