Everyone in our house grooves on crispy roasted broccoli, so it’s in heavy rotation on the dinner menu playlist.
However, no one but me will eat the stems or stalks. I’m not really sure why this is, but I’d guess it’s because the florets get so much crispier than the stalks. Whatever the reason, I end up with pounds and pounds of broccoli stalks that I can’t bring myself to throw out. (We had to stop putting food in our backyard compost pile because the rats and raccoons thought they’d stumbled upon a 24/7 gastropub.)
So now, whenever I make roasted broccoli, I chop up the underappreciated stems and store them in a gallon-size ziplock bag in the fridge. (They’ll keep for weeks.) When the bag’s full, it’s time to make Cream of Broccoli soup.
Most “Cream of . . . “ soups start out the same way, with an onion sautéed in some butter and then a little flour mixed in to make a roux (or thickener). I’ve done broccoli soups this way in the past, and the end result is velvety and creamy-tasting (even though there’s no cream added). However, this time I thought I’d try it without the flour – relying instead on the abundance of puréed broccoli stems to thicken the soup. It did the job, and saved a couple of steps in the process. To save some calories as well as steps, I use sharp aged cheddar as a garnish instead of stirring it into the soup. By using a sharp, flavorful cheese, you can get away with using a lot less. So voilà – an easy, “skinny” broccoli cheddar soup that puts all those broccoli stalks to good use. (Feel free to stir in a few handfuls of grated aged cheddar right before serving if you want a richer, cheesier soup.)
Skinny Cream of Broccoli Soup with Aged Cheddar
Makes 8 generous servings
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 onion, chopped (approx. 1 ½ cups; yellow or red onion, or shallots are OK too)
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 64 oz. fat-free chicken (or vegetable) broth (two 32-oz boxes)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (optional; it brightens the flavor and color of the soup)
- 1 chicken bouillon cube or 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 gallon bag (approx. 3 lbs or 10 cups) broccoli stalk chunks (toughest ends trimmed/peeled if necessary), plus 1 cup small florets to stir in after puréeing
- 1-2 cups milk (I use 1%, but any kind is OK)
- Salt & pepper, to taste
- Grated aged/extra-sharp cheddar cheese for garnish (optional)
In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, melt butter and sauté onion for about 5 minutes. Add thyme, chicken broth, lemon juice (if using), bouillon cube or salt, and broccoli stalk chunks.
Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until the broccoli is very tender (15-20 minutes).
Using an immersion blender, purée the broccoli stalks until smooth. (Or, purée in small batches in a blender, covering the lid with a dishtowel to prevent splattering; add the purée back to the pot.)
Stir in the milk and reserved broccoli florets; heat to a simmer and cover for 3-5 minutes, or until florets are tender. (Stir in up to 2 cups grated aged cheddar if desired; reserve some for garnish.)
Season with black pepper and more kosher salt, if necessary. (Cheese is salty, so you’ll need less salt if you’re stirring cheese into the soup.) Sprinkle with grated aged cheddar for garnish. Leftover soup will keep for several days, but also can be frozen.
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