Thursday, March 15, 2012

A green soup

I used to make fun of the Dutch when, in the early spring, they would go out on their balconies every time the sun came out even for a few minutes, lie on their large lounge chairs and soak it in. Now, I'm doing the exact same thing.






I find myself missing the Greek sun more and more each day and my face and body seem to yearn for the sunshine, now more than ever before.






Its Dutch counterpart has finally made its appearance. These past few days we have been having nothing but sunshine. The curtains in my apartment are wide open, my home is filled with sunlight in the morning and, in the evening, when the sun sets, I can see the orange-mauve colors at the horizon.






The days are longer and now I revel in the warm rays. I soak in the gentle heat and light. I feel like a sunflower, my movements directed by the gleaming star. If I could photosynthesize, I would produce the most glorious shade of green.






Speaking of green, I promised you a soup, a green soup, and here it is. It is one of my favorite creamy, vegetable soups, one with broccoli and potato, onions and olive oil and milk. You don't need much else. No cream, no butter, just a side of toasted bread topped with some good kefalotyri cheese.






So effortless, so unassuming, so delicious. Blended but, if you wish, not completely, leaving a few bits and pieces of vegetables to bite into, light, in a late winter kind of way when you need to shed off the bold flavors of sturdy soups, and paired exquisitely with the crunch of the cheesed-up bread.






Pour it into large mugs or simple soup bowls, eat it while standing in front of a window, your face bathed in the sun rays, the same ones that hit that bright green-colored soup, and marvel in the joy of pure, unadulterated, good food.











Creamy Broccoli Soup with Kefalotyri Toasts
Adapted from Rachel Allen

The flavor of this creamy soup is slightly sweet, with a mellow broccoli taste, all the nuances of onion and potato, and a delicate hint of olive oil. You'll be tempted to add cream and butter to it instead of milk and olive oil but don't. I assure you, it doesn't need those flavors. Keep it light.
The kefalotyri toasts add umaminess and a gentle, welcomed tang to the soup. If you can't find the Greek kefalotyri, use parmesan or its underrated cousin, grana padano, which I love.

The onions and potatoes need to "sweat", which means to cook but not take on a golden brown color while doing so, so a baking (parchment) paper circle is utilized as a lid and is put on top. The baking paper doesn't allow any steam to escape, thus allowing the vegetables to cook but not burn.
Read here on how to easily make a baking paper circle.






Yield: 6-8 soup servings

Ingredients
45 ml (3 Tbsp) olive oil plus extra for drizzling over the soup
2 medium-sized onions (about 300 g), chopped
2 medium-sized potatoes (about 300 g), cut into 2-3 cm cubes
2 fresh broccoli heads (about 1,200 g)
1 ½ chicken or vegetable stock cubes*
800 ml water
100 ml whole milk, at room temperature
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Chives, chopped, for garnishing the soup

A little freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)

1 baguette or country-style bread, sliced
50 g kefalotyri (or parmesan or grana padano), grated

* or 800 ml homemade (or store-bought) stock - if you use stock in liquid form, don't add the 800 ml water.

Special equipment: baking paper, immersion blender or regular blender or food processor, rasp grater for the cheese


Preparation

Clean and cut the broccoli
Rinse the broccoli heads under running water. Cut the florets off the stem, using a large and sharp knife, and cut them into smaller pieces. Place them in a large bowl. Take the stems and, using your knife, cut the bottom 1 cm off. Then, cut off the outer layer of the stems. This outer layer is tough and needs to be discarded. Cut the rest of the stems into smaller pieces and place in another bowl. You need to keep the stems and florets separate because they have different cooking times (the stems are tougher so they need more time to cook).

Prepare the soup
Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan, over medium-high heat and when it starts to shimmer, add the chopped onions. Sauté for about 4 minutes, stirring continuously so they don't color, until they soften and become translucent.
Add the potatoes and sauté for 1 minute, stirring continuously. Turn heat down to low and add a little salt and pepper.
Place a lightly oiled (with olive oil) round piece of baking paper on top of the potatoes and onions, covering them completely. The paper needs to be in contact with the vegetables. Put the lid on the pan.


After 10-15 minutes have passed, check on the potatoes and if they are almost cooked, add the broccoli stem pieces, discarding the baking paper. In case the potatoes are still tough, cook until they soften a bit. Add the stock cubes and water (or homemade stock) and stir well. Turn heat up to high, put the lid back on and boil for 5-10 minutes, until the broccoli stems have softened.


Add the broccoli florets and a little more salt and pepper and stir well. Put on the lid and allow the soup to come to the boil. Once it does, immediately remove the lid. By removing the lid you ensure that the broccoli won't lose its bright green color. Boil for 3-5 minutes or until the broccoli florets soften.
Then add the milk, stir well and turn the heat off.


Blend the soup directly in the pan with an immersion blender or, if you're using a regular blender or food processor, add a ladleful at a time to it, blending as you do, until you have blended all of the soup to a creamy consistency.
You can opt for not blending everything into oblivion but leaving some small pieces of broccoli or potato intact. They will certainly give a nice contrast to the creamy soup.
Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Prepare the kefalotyri toasts
In the meantime, preheat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius.
Place the sliced bread on a baking paper-lined baking sheet and add the grated cheese on top. Place the baking sheet on the top rack of your oven and toast the bread. When the cheese has melted and the bread has taken on a golden brown color, after about 4 minutes, remove the baking sheet from the oven.

Serve the soup into soup bowls or large mugs, sprinkle with some chopped chives and drizzle a little olive oil on top. Squeeze a little fresh lemon juice over the top if you want. Accompany with the toasted, cheesed-up bread and enjoy!





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13 comments:

  1. Simple and delicious! And I am starting to get the sun thing too!

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  2. I also used to make fun of the austrians for the same reason and now I'm craving the sun like them!!! Your soup looks delicious! :-)

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  3. Part of my family lives in Amsterdam and we have often gone to visit in the Spring. It is a lovely time as everyone is so happy for the sunshine and spring vegetables and just being outside after winter. Here in Tennessee it has been Spring all Winter it seems. We did not have a real winter, rather lots of warm raining days. My Spring garden vegetables are growing vigorously. I love the way your soup sounds and think I will make it topped with some of my fresh garden chives.

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  4. Yes I've seen the sofa sitting too, it sounded like a brilliant idea to me!

    I make almost exactly the same soup: it is much nicer than what you'd expect from something so simple. I've never tried to add in kefalotyri, but it sounds like the perfect occasion to track some down.

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  5. I love your sentence on photosynthesis! This is also a soup I love.

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  6. Perfect and green! Just in time for St. Patrick's Day! And I just found kefalotyri cheese at our local market when Doreen was here! Enjoy the sunshine, Magda! ~ David

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  7. It's always the sun Magda!
    Lovely soup!

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  8. Sounds wonderful! I'm glad it's so sunny there! Rainy day here, but I know we need to water to make things green!!

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  9. This looks delicious! I've been a long-time reader of your blog, Magda! Makes me happy every time I come back.

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  10. Lovely. I made something very similar last night, but I roasted my broccoli. It was delicious. Regrettably, I did not have any kefalotyri toasts.

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  11. Geia sou Magda! Oi dhmiourgies sou fainontai poly nostimes kai easy to make =)
    Authn edw tha thn dokimasw sigoura kathoti eimai big fan tou mprokolou!
    Filakia apo to Hrakleio (fanatstiki liakada alla ena kryo pou dagkwnei vre paidaki mou!)
    xoxo

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  12. Magda, I made this soup last week, exactly as you directed without changing a thing. It's FABULOUS!! So very good. I made a double batch and will be happily finishing the last bowl for today's lunch. Thank you so much!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Lori! I'm so happy you enjoyed it. It is one of my favorite soups. Whenever I make it, I eat it two days in a row!

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