This afternoon, I looked at the big heads of broccoli, abundant sorrel, numerous zucchini, and heads of butter lettuce in my raised beds and thought, “How the hell am I going to eat all this?” I didn’t expect to reach this state of affairs quite so early in the summer. I am barely keeping up with the lettuce, which the rising temperatures are soon going to fry.
The pleasant challenge of vegetable gardening, however, is to find congruent flavors in disperate plants. Today, I decided to pair broccoli with sorrel in a cream soup. The lemon in sorrel, I thought, would complement the broccoli. And I turned out to be right. But first I looked for a model recipe to adapt. For the first time in a while, my cookbooks let me down. Not even ol’Basics, by Ludkin and Russo, had a cream of broccoli recipe. Time to wing it.
I used what I had in my fridge:
About 2 ounces of smoked bacon, cut into lardons
1 yellow onion
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
6 cups chicken stock
Water as needed
2 pounds broccoli, cut into florets and the stemmed trimmed of touch outside skin
a bunch of sorrel with stems removed and leaves roughly chopped
1/2 cup cream
1 ounce soft goat cheese (optional)
In a large 5- or 7-quart pot, fry the bacon pieces until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towel. Nibble at them, if you want a velvety smooth soup. Pour off most of the bacon fat, leaving about 1-2 tablespoons in the pan. Add the chopped onion and sauté a few minutes, until soft. Add the carrot and celery and continue to sauté for a few minutes. Add broccoli and sorrel. Stir to coat with fat. Add the stock and enough water to cover all the vegetables. Bring to steady boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the broccoli is soft.
Before pureeing in a blender, let the soup cool a bit. When the stock is cooler, puree the stock and vegetables in a blender in several batches. Do not fill your blender jar more than a third of the way up. Pour the pureed soup into a small soup pot. When the entire soup has been pureed and poured into the soup pot, pour in cream and stir to blend. Adjust seasoning at this point. Be careful not to add too much, since the smoked bacon will contribute salt to the soup. Having said that, however, try and adjust the seasoning just so. Salt will enhance ever so slightly the flavor of the bacon in the background.
I’ve had this soup hot for dinner and, the next day, cold. At dinner, I crumbled a little soft goat cheese on top before I took my first spoonful.