Roasted broccoli soup with cheddar crisps

When you grow a garden it sometimes seems that all the vegetables or fruits become ripe at one time. Anyone who has grown tomatoes or zucchini in the summer is familiar with this predicament. For many of us, this is the time to can, freeze, dry, or in some other way preserve the bounty of our harvest. The winter garden can be just as singularly prolific: broccoli raab one week, kale the next, broccoli after that.

If this head of broccoli sits on the plant too long it will go to flower and will no longer be edible.

Certainly one can eat the same vegetable night after night for dinner, and believe me, we do.  We have had roasted broccoli for dinner at least 4 nights in the past week.  However, a little variety is always appreciated, and nothing uses up a windfall of vegetables like soup. Since I like the sweetness that comes to broccoli when it is roasted, I decided to try a roasted broccoli soup, and I was quite happy with the results. Admittedly the color was not quite as fresh and green as a soup made with fresh broccoli, but the subtle sweet flavor made up for the army fatigue hue and a nice crispy yellow cheddar garnish helped to brighten up the color and boost the flavor.

The broccoli can be cut up into very large pieces for this recipe. No need to be very particular about it as it will be blended up into the soup at the end.

For 4 cups of cut up broccoli which should make 4 generous servings you will also need:

¼ of a large or ½ of a small onion cut into rough chunks

2 whole cloves of garlic peeled

1 small or ½ large potato,  peeled

2 Tablespoon of California extra virgin olive oil

32 ounces of chicken broth.

For the cheddar crisps have ready 4-6 ounces of low-fat cheddar cheese for the above recipe quantities.

Start by roasting the broccoli, onion and garlic.  Pour 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a roasting dish, add the broccoli, the onion and the garlic and mix it around with your hand until it is all coated with the oil. Then bake it in a 400 degree oven, stirring once every 5 minutes, until it is lightly caramelized and browned. This should take about 20 minutes.

As you can see the broccoli, onion and garlic above have some nice caramelized color to them which will give some great flavor to the soup.

While the broccoli is roasting, chop your potatoes in some large rough chunks. No need to be too particular about it as they will also be blended up into the soup.

Once the broccoli is cooked add it to the pot along with the potato pieces and the chicken broth.

Broccoli, potatoes, onions and garlic in the pot with chicken broth.

Now bring the whole mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and simmer until the vegetables are very soft.

While the soup is cooking, make the cheddar crisp garnish. Following this link to my recipe and directions for the cheddar crisps. After they are made and cooled break them into rough pieces to use as the garnish.

Crumbled Cheddar Crisps

Once the soup is cooked thoroughly, which should take about 20 minutes or more, it will need to be pureed. I did this with my new Vita-Mix Blender which was a Christmas gift from my son and my husband.

Roasted broccoli soup in my new Vita-Mix blender

Wow, did it make the soup smooth and creamy! I started the blender on a low speed, then gradually ramped up to the higher speed and it sounded like an airplane taking off!

If you use a regular blender jar, make sure to cool the soup a bit before blending it and leave an opening in the top for the air to get out or it will explode on you! Another good way to puree soup is to use and immersion blender. You just place it in the pot and puree the soup right there.

This is the soup in a bowl after being pureed.

After you puree the soup you will need to heat it back up before you serve it. You should also add salt and pepper to taste at this point. If you like a creamier soup you can add milk, or half and half or cream. However, I tried that and found that I preferred this more full flavored version without any dilutions.

Serve the soup piping hot in a bowl with the cheddar crisps crumbled over the top right before serving.

Roasted Broccoli Soup with Cheddar Crisps

© 2015. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.

Cheese Crisps

This is a one ingredient recipe that became my son’s favorite after school treat. Cheese crisps started as a simple piece of cheese melted in the microwave, and progressed to an art form and a source of debate in our household in in terms of what kind of cheese, how long it should be cooked, what to cook it on, etc. Cheese crisps are a  fun “make it yourself” after school snack for kids or a tasty little appetizer. They are a great way to use little bits of leftover cheese. Cheese crisps can also be crumbled and used as a fancy garnish for salads and soups.

The general premise is that if you take a piece of cheese and heat it in the microwave, first it will melt, then it will become bubbly and finally it will get crispy. During this process some of the fat will also melt out of the cheese. You will end up with a reduced fat piece of crispy cheese goodness. How can you go wrong with that?

I have tried this with almost every type of cheese possible. The lower the fat content of the cheese, the more it will puff up and become crispy prior to becoming brown. The higher fat or more moist cheeses may need to be cooked until they are quite brown before they will become crisp, so they take a bit longer. Every microwave will cook at a different rate too, so you will just need to experiment with this one.

I used a  75 percent reduced fat Cabot cheddar cheese.  I obtained the cheese from Trader Joe’s.  It works great for this recipe as it puffs up and becomes super crispy due to the low fat content.

Start by cutting a piece of parchment paper about 5 inches square.

Cut a piece of cheese about 1/4 inch thick. This piece was about 1 1/2 inches wide by 3 1/2  inches long. 1 to 1 1/2 ounces is about the maximum amount of cheese you should use and 2 inches is about the maximum width I would recommend for the narrowest side. You can also make this recipe with a 1 ounce pile of grated cheese. Put the cheese on the parchment and place it in the microwave.

Set the time for 2 minutes on full power and turn the microwave on. WATCH CAREFULLY!  It takes our microwave between 1 to 1 1/2 minutes for the cheese to be fully crisped up and ready. First it will melt, then it will start to get bubbly.

The cheese above is melted and starting to get crispy. This cheese was low fat so it cooked in 70 seconds and was crispy before it became brown. The cheese crisps up as it cools so when you first take it out of the oven it may not be crispy, but in a minute or two it will crisp up. If it is not to your liking you can alway cook it a few more seconds.

This is how the cheese looked when it was finished cooking.

Here are pictures of a much higher fat and higher moisture content cheese: Laura Chenel Chevre (Fresh Goat Cheese). It was so soft I was surprised that I could cook this one to a crispy texture. I had to sort of smash the cheese together into a mass on the paper:

With soft cheeses especially it is important to use an ounce or less, or the cheese will not get cooked in the middle. This is the cheese halfway cooked, after about 40 seconds.

This is the finished goat cheese crisp.

As you will see from the picture, a lot of moisture and oil was left on the parchment and the surface of the cheese when it was finished cooking. Just blot the fat and moisture off with a paper towel.

After they have cooled for a minute or so, take the cheese crisps off the parchment and place them on a plate and you are ready to reuse the parchment paper over and over again.

When all your crisps are finished, you can pile them on a plate to serve. Try several different cheeses and serve as an accompaniment to a cocktail or a glass of wine.                                             Goat Cheese and Cheddar Crisps

© 2015. Dayna Green-Burgeson RD, CDE. All Rights Reserved.