Broccoli cheddar soup is an excellent lunch or light dinner solution that combines the healthfulness of broccoli with the richness of a creamy cheese base. Keep the calorie count low by serving the soup with a small salad or grilled meat. To prepare a more substantial meal, use the soup as an appetizer and follow with broiled poultry or fish, and a crusty French bread. The following recipe, which serves four, takes only about 30 minutes to prepare. After the ingredients are combined, you can let it simmer or save it, and reheat when ready to eat.
Break any tough stems from the broccoli crowns and discard the stems. Set aside two small florets to serve as a garnish for the finished dish. Melt the butter in a large, heavy casserole dish or skillet and cook the onion until it is soft, but not browned. If you want the soup to have a bit of a stronger flavor, you can add two leeks at this point. They should be cleaned and chopped (white parts only). Add the broccoli and the potato--you can keep the skin on the potato or peel it off, depending on your preference. Pour the chicken or vegetable stock over the broccoli, potatoes and onions. Cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
Once the vegetables in the soup are soft, cool the combination slightly. Pour all the ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Strain the mixture through a sieve. Rinse the pan clean and return the strained mixture to the pan. Add the milk and the heavy cream to the mixture. Season to taste with salt and paper. Reheat the soup gently. Just before you’re ready to serve the soup, add the cheese, stirring until it melts. Do not boil the soup once the cheese has been added.
To finish your broccoli cheddar meal, blanch the few broccoli florets you reserved in the beginning of the process. Cut them vertically into thin slices. If you’re serving other foods as well, once you’re ready to eat, ladle the soup into warmed bowls and garnish the top with the sliced broccoli florets. Grind black pepper on top of the soup for added flavor. If you want a heartier soup, you can add either canned cannellini beans or dried beans that have been soaked and cooked, at the point where the soup is returned to the pan after blending. Whichever recipe direction you choose, you’ll wind up with a perfect, easy-to-make complement to snuggling by the fire on cool autumn and winter evenings.