I have another soup here for you. You know, just in case you need a little warming from the inside out. Or just in case you need some convincing to eat more vegetables...a New Year's resolution, perhaps? If eating more vegetables was on your to-do list, I am hoping to make that goal a bit easier and even delicious.
This is no ordinary broccoli soup. I grew up eating a rendition of broccoli soup that, despite being totally scrumptious, negated any potential nutritious benefits I could have gotten from eating broccoli in the first place. Cream certainly has its place here and there, but when your soup starts to match the eggshell-hued ceramic diner cup it is served in, you should think about switching up your order now and again. While my ten-year-old self devoured every last drop of that soup...with a tag-along grilled cheese because that is what ten-year-olds do, I think my adult self would call it quits a few spoonfuls in. For my arteries' sake, of course.
This soup certainly retains a beautiful earthy green color with just little specks of red sprinkled here and there from the pesto. There is a smidgen of dairy in my grown-up broccoli soup compared to most versions, but it is still rich in flavor. I rely on chickpeas to help thicken, and a quick sun-dried tomato and basil pesto to bring it some punch. The meatiness of the tomatoes and toasted walnuts lend a real savoriness to the pesto that, when swirled into the soup, elevates it a notch or two...or maybe even three. For textural contrast, I reserve some broccoli florets that I cut into bite-size pieces and steam just until bright green and tender, tossing them into the pureed portion just before serving. Sprinkle with some Parmigiano-reggiano or whatever nice sharp, salty cheese you are craving that day, and dig in.
Broccoli Soup with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
pinch of red chili flakes
1 1/2 pounds broccoli, stems trimmed, peeled, and chopped, and crowns cut into bite-size pieces (reserve 2 cups florets)
1 cup drained chickpeas
3 cups water
1/2 recipe Sun-dried Tomato Pesto, recipe below (about 1/4 cup)
salt and pepper, to taste
Parmigiano-reggiano or other sharp cheese, for serving, optional
Heat olive oil in pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute 5-7 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add garlic and chili flakes and saute 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add broccoli stems and all but 2 cups of florets. Toss in chickpeas. Add 3 cups water, a generous pinch of salt, and heat until boiling. Reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook 10-12 minutes or until broccoli stems and florets are soft and easily mashed with a fork. Puree mixture in blender or using an immersion blender right in the pot. Return to pot and swirl in pesto.
Meanwhile, steam remaining florets in pot fitted with steamer basket or in shallow water for about 5 minutes or until bright green and tender. Remove from heat, and toss florets into soup. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with any desired cheese, if using. Enjoy! Makes 4 servings.
Sun-dried Tomato Pesto
1/4 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-reggiano or Parmesan cheese
zest and juice of 1/4 lemon
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon water
salt and pepper, to taste
Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender, and blend until smooth, scraping down sides as necessary. Alternatively, use a mortar and pestle for a coarser texture. Season to taste. Makes about 1/2 cup.