This is probably going to be the only time that I make a recipe, have something new to share with you, get a picture taken and a post put together all within 24 hours! Don't get used to it, there's no way the stars will align in quite the same way again.
While you're here though, I have some things to share with you. First of all, yesterday brought a new addition to one place near and dear to my heart, Chicago's French Market. Mostly because that's where I go when I dodn't have time to pack a lunch for work, and while there are lots of great places there to pick from, it's always nice to see a new option, especially when its a new venture by the can't-do-anything-wrong Stephanie Izard, who brought her Little Goat Bread sandwiches and freshly baked loaves east a few blocks to a stand right across the street from my office. The line was predictably insane at lunch time, but I went a bit late and waited patiently for the slightly harried but undeniably cool under pressure Stephanie to hand me my roast beef sandwich stuffed with kimchi and pickles. Not bad, but the best part was the wreath shaped loaf of carrot, cumin and walnut bread. YUM! This crusty loaf with chewy insides was incredible. The spices were right on and the large chunks of walnuts baked in were lovely. If you're in the neighborhood, I highly recommend you make your way down there and pick up a loaf to try for yourself. As for me, I had mine in hand and I just had to make something extra special to go with it.
I had some broccoli in the fridge waiting for inspiration and some shredded cheddar leftover from another recipe so I decided that a nice cheesy broccoli soup would be perfect. I wanted something a bit lighter or at least more packed with veggies, I mean broccoli soup sounds healthy, but all that goes out the window when you add three pounds of cheese and butter. I did a bit of research and landed on a lovely recipe from another never-fail source, America's Test Kitchen. They had a great method for cooking down the broccoli faster, didn't use too much cheese, only a little bit of butter and no cream. It came out delicious, and that spoon in the picture is purely for show, I used the bread to mop up the soup and I'll do it again tomorrow.
Broccoli and Cheddar Soup
adapted slightly from America's Test Kitchen
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 pounds broccoli, florets roughly chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsps dry mustard powder
Pinch cayenne pepper
2–3 cups water
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 bunch baby spinach, roughly chopped leaves (I left out the stems)
3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (3/4 cup)
1 1/2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated fine (about 3/4 cup), plus extra for serving
Ground black pepper
1. Heat butter in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When foaming subsides and the butter begins to brown and develops a light nutty scent, add broccoli, onion, garlic, dry mustard, cayenne, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 6 minutes. Add 1 cup water and baking soda. Bring to simmer, cover, and cook until broccoli is very soft, about 20 minutes, stirring once about halfway through. You may think that the cup of water will not be enough, but for me, the lid of the dutch oven kept all the steam inside and the cup of water provided the perfect amount of liquid to keep things going and nothing burned or even stuck to the pot.
2. Once the broccoli is nice and mushy, add the broth and 1 cup of water and increase heat to medium-high. When mixture begins to simmer, stir in spinach and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Transfer half of soup to a blender, add cheddar and Parmesan, and process until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer soup to medium bowl and repeat with remaining soup. You can also just leave everything in the pot, add the cheeses and use your immersion blender to puree the lot, that'll save you some extra dishes to wash. Return soup to Dutch oven, place over medium heat and bring to simmer. Adjust consistency of soup with up to 1 cup water if you like, but I kept mine as is because I like thicker soups. Season to taste with salt and pepper and server hot with a slice or two of your favorite crusty bread.