Lettuce Eat Local
“Soup.” “Um, soup!” “Mac and cheese with hot dogs.” “…prob’ly soup.”
It was a Wednesday evening at our weekly kids’ program, and we were going around the circle with our little group of kindergarteners and first-graders, naming favorite things in a few categories. I had noticed in the “favorite candy” round that Sour Patch Kids got very popular after Brian mentioned them, yet I was willing to give the kids the benefit of the doubt.
When I started “favorite food” off, however, by saying that I like basically any kind of soup best, it seemed a bit too much of a coincidence that all these six- and seven-year-olds would also vote for soup. I think we often underestimate children and our own expectations can put them in a culinary box, but also, there’s no way their parents would corroborate this particular spoken preference.
The uncomfortable looks on the kids’ faces when I suggested I could just bring soup for our next Bonus Snack confirmed my suspicions.
Even though I know their stated stance on favorite foods won’t go with them when they leave our classroom, I think it’s adorable — or should I say, soup-er — that they wanted to match me. And I really do love essentially everything that fits in the category of soup, so I’m more than happy to be a role model for a few minutes.
I can, and do, eat all kinds of soup in all kinds of meteorological conditions, but these days of chill and clouds truly are Soup Weather. Just as the plunging temperatures and turning leaves awaken an almost desperate desire for baked goods like I talked about last week, so does the changing of seasons usher in a particular deep-seated eagerness for pulling out the big kettles and ladling up cozy bowls of steaming liquid. I consider stews, chowder, chilis, et cetera, all within the extremely broad classification of “soup,” and I consider them all appropriate. It can be brothy or creamy, chunky or smooth, light or hearty, even hot or cold: if it’s a soup, I’ll probably like it.
I’m not sure what it is that appeals to me so much about eating runny food with a spoon…and when I say it like that, I really don’t know what it is, but it’s there. And it’s not just because I’m pregnant. This is a lifelong dedication to the finer things in life; i.e., soup.
Brian does not share my affinity, and while there are certain soups he definitely enjoys, many of my favorites he categorizes as “not a meal,” meaning it fundamentally needs more girth or substance or something. So when his being gone this weekend coincided with me wearing a sweatshirt for the first time this season, I knew it was a sign for soup. I went all for it and made a big pot of broccoli cheese soup, which even I will readily admit always smells bad and usually looks bad. To make matters worse, I incorporated some vegan ideas (again, he was gone, so it was the time), so my broccoli-cheese is awkwardly light on the cheese.
Tell you what, though, a giant bowl of this, piping hot and luxuriously smooth, was a superb addition to a windy and dreary day. And I know I’ll get to enjoy the leftovers all by myself!
Unless, of course, I bring it along to share with my kindergartners.
Not-As-Cheesy Broccoli Soup
As I mentioned, the recipe I jumpstarted from was vegan, but hello I live on a dairy farm, so I couldn’t make it without ANY cheese. And I clearly don’t have anything against cheese, but I just like trying something different, and often feel that regular broccoli cheese soup is missing something — something the smoked paprika and nutritional yeast bring here. Unfortunately, the color does not improve with those additions, especially when blended; but fortunately, the flavor is worth it.
Prep tips: the hard part at the end of a block of Parmesan (the rind) imparts such a lovely richness, and should blend up just fine if you have a good blender. Any strong/funky cheese will do, though, and of course it doesn’t have to be a rind part; this is just a good place to use it. Nutritional yeast sounds like a niche ingredient but it’s actually easy to find at most groceries.
a glug of any oil/butter
a large sweet onion, diced
2 carrots, chopped
2-4 gold potatoes, cubed
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ cup cashews
4 cups good chicken broth
1 parmesan rind/a couple ounces sharp cheese
4-6 cups broccoli pieces (stems included)
¼ cup nutritional yeast
Heat oil in a soup-y pot. Add onion and saute until golden; toss in carrots and potatoes and cook a couple minutes, then stir in paprika, cashews, and broth. Bring to a boil and simmer until veg are just tender, then add in cheese and broccoli. Cover and cook until broccoli is tender but not mushy. Transfer (carefully) to a high-powered blender along with the nutritional yeast, and blend to utter creaminess (you could reserve some broccoli florets to pulse in afterwards for some texture). Season to taste, and serve with a good handful of shredded cheese to get all melty on top.