Tag Archives: Broccoli

Cauliflower broccoli soup

I love broccoli. I really, really, really do. Which is why I don’t understand how so many people want to muck up good broccoli soup by adding a bunch of potato to it.

Now, granted, I’ve had good broccoli potato soup once or twice, always with more broccoli than potato in it. But even then, the fuzzy heaviness the potato gives just isn’t my thing. I’m always hesitant to order broccoli soup in restaurants, because it so often comes with a sludgy, slightly grainy potato base. Which is why, when I was craving a thick, pale, slurpable broccoli soup recently, I turned to cauliflower instead.

I just love what cauliflower does when it meets hot liquid and a blender. When pureed, it turns almost starchy, but with a lightness that starch just can’t match. I’ve used it as a potato replacement in soup before, with roasted garlic and red lentils, but this might be my new favorite mutation. Broccoli and cauliflower are cousins, so it only makes sense that they would play well together–bold and brassy versus subtle and sweet. Mixing them together creates an almost airy soup, comforting yet light, perfect for sipping out of a mug.

This is a soup that evolves over time. Immediately after blending, it’s loose and flowing, pale minty green, and the flavors are bright and clean. As it sits, it thickens slightly and darkens somewhat, and the flavors mellow and blunt a bit. Refrigerate it or freeze it, and it loses some of its invigorating freshness, becoming milder and subtler.

That’s fine by me, because a soup like this is best treated as a blank canvas. When it’s freshly made and crisp-flavored, a drizzle of olive oil is all it needs. But now that I’m working my way through my freezer stash, I’m taking the opportunity to play. So far, I’ve had leftover soup with a squeeze of fresh lemon and a handful of grated Parm; with a drizzle of toasted sesame oil and a squirt of Sriracha; and, tonight, with a dab of harissa and some feta cheese crumbles. All of my adaptations so far have been fantastic, and all dramatically different. I love that so much.

cauliflower broccoli soup

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Broccoli potstickers

Sometimes I have to scrape and scrabble for recipe inspiration. And sometimes the ideas just float by uninvited. This was one of the easy ones: I was sitting around on a lazy Saturday, minding my own business, when two words suddenly popped up and took hold in my mind. Broccoli. Potstickers.

It’s hard to resist a sudden inspiration like that, and I didn’t even try. I already had a half-used package of wonton wrappers left over from making ravioli, and some broccoli that needed to get used. Riffing off of my turkey potstickers from Christmas, I steamed the broccoli and pulsed it in the food processor with scallions, ginger, garlic, and a mishmash of tried-and-true flavorings. Once again, folding and pleating the potstickers was slow, sticky work, and about halfway through I wondered why I’d gotten myself into this. But the payoff, unsurprisingly, was huge.

These suckers are addictive. There’s the familiar greenness of broccoli, mixed with the hot spark of fresh ginger and the soothing saltiness of hoisin and soy, all in one crispy-soft bite. I’m a broccoli fiend anyway, so these hit the spot with me, but even those who are suspicious of broccoli will very likely enjoy these. With the wonton wrappers, the potstickers came out bite-sized, perfect for dunking and munching one after the other after the other. Because there’s no meat or tofu to weigh these down, they feel almost insubstantial, which makes them effortless to eat. I was going to freeze half my batch for later, but I never got the chance, because Sam and I ate them all.

As far as dipping sauce options, anything light and soy-based would do terrifically here. My favorite dipping sauce–the one in the photo below–is just equal parts soy sauce and rice vinegar. I pinched a little of the chopped scallion from making the filling, added it to the sauce, then let the whole thing sit aside and mingle while the potstickers cooked. It was perfect. Highly recommended.

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Peanut-ginger udon noodles

My junior and senior years of college, I spent a lot of time at a place called the Book Mill. It’s a hidden gem of a used bookstore, tucked away in a serene corner of rural Massachusetts. Slogan: “Books You Don’t Need in a Place You Can’t Find.”

The bookstore itself is housed in a 19th-century gristmill. It’s a strange, slightly crazed little building, with odd-sized rooms, sharply angled rafters and staircases so narrow your shoulders bump the walls. The walls are lined with bookshelves, which are filled to creaking with books of every size and binding. There are vintage armchairs in every corner, for settling in and reading. The whole place smells musty, the way a good used bookstore should.

But the Book Mill is more than just a bookstore. It’s a creative and social hub, with several artists’ studios and a small cafe attached to the old mill building. When my friends and I needed to escape from the pointy-headed bubble of our college campus, we would drive out to the Book Mill and claim ourselves one of the big black wooden tables in the cafe. We would order lunch–crusty brie-and-apricot sandwiches, fruit and cheese boards with honeyed yogurt, peanut-ginger udon noodles, a glass of maple milk to wash it all down–and sink ourselves into an afternoon of classwork or thesis writing, while the river tumbled by under the windows.

I still miss those afternoons, deeply, achingly. The cafe, the bookstore, the food and the river: they were all of a place, that old pastoral New England place, that just can’t be imitated anywhere else. Recently, on a hot afternoon, I tried recreating those peanut udon noodles from the cafe. I’ve never seen peanut noodles done anywhere the way they were done at the Book Mill, with udon noodles and broccoli and just the right clinging layer of sauce. So I stuck close to memory and tried to feel my way based on the flavors I had tasted dozens of times.

The noodles came out perfect, supple and chewy, and the sauce was rich and velvety like I remembered. It wasn’t the same, of course, but if I closed my eyes, I could just barely make out the feeling of a heavy wooden table under my elbows as I held my fork.

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Chili-roasted broccoli

I went hiking yesterday.  Today, I HURT.

I didn’t realize it was possible to be this sore after wandering in the woods for a couple hours.  Everything from my waist down hurts.  My stomach and my thighs and my bottom and my calves are whining at me every time I move.  I’m one blog post away from collapsing into bed and sleeping the deep sleep of the overexerted.  Clearly, I overestimated myself in just about every way.

Except one.  I’m not letting myself get discouraged this time.

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Garlic broth, and a simple broccoli soup

Chalk up today’s post to “experiments in high-altitude cooking.”

I spent the weekend with friends at a vacation home in Mammoth Lakes, California. At nearly 8,000 feet above sea level, it’s a ski and snowboard haven. We neither skied nor snowboarded–the winter’s been so dry that the resorts are resorting (heh) to exclusively man-made snow. Plus, the only winter sport I’m really interested in is sipping wine in a hot tub.

So we mostly stayed indoors, away from the punishing bone-dry winter winds. We cooked big communal meals. I improvised a cozy broccoli soup–quite literally, out of thin air–that somehow got lots of compliments. Not bad, given that we had trouble getting water to boil hot enough to cook pasta.

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Chinese for Christmas: beef with broccoli

In honor of Christmas, here’s a cheesy joke:

A Jewish guy and a Chinese guy sit next to each other at (where else?) a bar. After a couple of drinks, they begin arguing over whose civilization is the greater and more venerable. The Chinese guy says, “My people have been around for four thousand years!” The Jewish guy retorts, “Oh, yeah? Well, my people have been around for five thousand years!”

“Really?” says the Chinese guy. “What did they eat for the first thousand years?”

For folks like me, eating Chinese food on Christmas is a storied tradition, as American as apple pie and just about as beloved. It’s simple, really: Chinese restaurants are usually the only ones open on Christmas–both Eve and Day–and so that’s where all the hungry Jews ended up.

So, as this toddling food blog celebrates its first holiday season, I’m instituting that tradition here. Chinese food for Christmas. It shall be so.

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Broccoli and feta pasta

Happy Halloween!

This year’s spooky day snuck up on me.  I have no holiday-appropriate post.  No candy, no pumpkin, no orange food, nothing at all about putting on costumes and demanding sugary treats from strangers.

What I do have is tonight’s dinner, which accidentally turned out looking like something you might use in a haunted house to imitate human innards:

That’s Halloween-y, right?

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