Sunday, June 13, 2010

Broccoli almond soup

Broccoli almond soup is interestingly ambiguous. A little push in one direction and it's Chinese, in another and it's Mediterranean. The basic recipe I worked from, from the Dairy Hollow House Soup & Bread cookbook, had it both ways. It used both sesame oil and sour cream for a fusiony effect. For me, the Chinese association was too strong. I could bring myself to finish it off with the sour cream and instead piled on garnishes with Chinese flavor elements. Maybe I missed out; I'll try sour cream with some of the leftovers.

1 large head of broccoli, chopped into florets, thick stems peeled
6 cups chicken stock [I only had two cups of fairly condensed stock left so I just used water for the rest. I figured I'd get a purer broccoli flavor that way so maybe an improvement.]
2 Tablespoons butter
1 large onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup toasted almonds
3 Tablespoons sesame seeds
2 teaspoons sesame oil
salt and pepper to taste
sour cream, maybe

1. Bring stock to a boil in a dutch oven. Add the broccoli, turn down the heat to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium pan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté 5 minutes to soften and lightly brown. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more.

3. Move broccoli and onion mixture to a food processor. Add the almonds and sesame seeds. Process until smooth, adding broth to help the process along as necessary. [Sliced almonds will process better than the whole ones I had, but I liked the little chunks of almond that were left.] Return to the broth.

4. Bring back to a boil and simmer 1 minute to blend the flavors. Adjust texture with extra broth and seasoning with salt and pepper. [My low sodium, low chicken broth meant that I needed a whole lot of salt.] Mix in sesame oil.

As I mentioned up top, the original recipe just topped it with sour cream and called it a day, but I wanted to bring out more of the Asian flavors. You can't see it under there but there's a heap of brown rice in the bowl. On top are slices of Guilin-chili-sauce-and-soy-marinated pork chop and some cilantro.

Sans garnishes, the soup is intensely flavorful, with a bright freshness from the broccoli (despite the long cooking time) and a toasty nuttiness. It's fairly creamy considering the lack of dairy, and the imperfectly blended almonds add a bit of crunch. It's tasty but, personally, I find it hard to eat a whole bowl of soup where every spoonful tastes exactly the same.

The nuttiness of the brown rice blends right in with the other nutty elements in the soup. The combination of broccoli and rice is a cheap Chinese take-out for good reason so no complaints there.

The pork is a little problematic, though. I did an unexpectedly good job of marinating and cooking it to the right level of doneness so I really wanted to eat it on its own. It's still pairs well with the flavors in the soup, but it's a shame not to let it go solo when it's so good. What I should have done was marinate some beef in oyster sauce. That's the classic pairing with broccoli. While I'm making substitutions, some scallions instead of the cilantro would have been a better choice.

Well, I've got two containers of leftovers packed away and two plans of what to do with them. Good.

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