Monday, June 27, 2011

The Soup Project: Creamy Broccoli and Arugula Soup with Caramelized Zucchini and Avocado

How I found this soup

I read so many food blogs last week, I needed a break. I'd been looking for ideas and checking out the endless blogs from the self-appointed foodies.Somewhere along the way I'd commented on a recipe and had wanted to use it for this blog, but I'd looked at so many food blog posts, they all began sounding alike, and the only one that really stuck in my mind was this ridiculous shark party blog with a badly carved watermelon shark sitting in blue jello cubes and annoying Britney Spears-like music that played over and over again.

Anyway, I couldn't remember where the recipe was, and the only ingredients I remembered was broccoli, arugula and onions.

It was a pureed soup that originally came from Gwenneth Paltrow's cookbook.
I know, Gweneth Paltrow, seriously? I'd seen her book but figured it was a celebrity gimmick and never gave it a second glance. But this recipe--it was simple--broccoli, arugula and onions. The combination somehow sounded perfect.

Getting the ingredients

I knew I'd find broccoli and arugula at the market.

I got some flowers and plant starts, but I didn't find broccoli or arugula at Rent's Due Ranch--this is just shamelss product placement. I love JoanE's displays. The big basket of flowers--a feast for the eyes.

I got Willie Green's broccoli; Mair Farm-Taki's spring onions and arugula, but the arugula bunches were so small and I ended up getting two. With the broccoli at $4, the arugula $6 and the onions $5, I was up to $15 for this soup that makes 4 servings--that's two meals for us.

While I was at Mair Farm I asked whether some of the varieties of vegetables came from Japan. Katsumi said they have seed sniffing beagles that prevent anyone from bringing seeds into the country. Okay it's a little off the soup topic, but I like to know about how agriculture laws affect us and I often think we're so removed from government-ag connections that we often don't see how regulations affect us.

Back to the soup.

I was craving an exotic flavor, where the mild background of broccoli boosts the snapppy arugula. One thing about the Soup Project is that breaking away from the usual go-to recipes can be a challenge the more people you cook for and if those people are picky or have food allergies, it's even more challenging.

I ran through the possibilities for making it creamy without using dairy--coconut milk, blended tofu, a potato or cashew cream? Rice flour, a corn tortilla and even arrowroot can thicken soup but I was thinking more along the lines of hazelnut or almond butter for texture.

Either nut butter would work. Peanut butter isn't the same, so don't even try it. But nut butter won't make the soup thicker. A handful of oats is an old trick from the 1970s that I used make soups thicker.

Check out the leek tips. They have perfect garlic overtones.

Here's soup recipe #23:

Broccoli-Arugula Soup with Spring Onions, Caramelized Zucchini and Avocado
This creamy soup thickens as it cools, so you may need to add more liquid for leftovers.
(Serves 4)

1 1/2 cups chopped spring onions
1 cup sliced leek tips (optional)
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 tablespoon chopped Mama Lil's peppers (optional)
1 1/2 cups broccoli tops, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups water
1/4 cup oatmeal
1 1/2 cups chopped zucchini
1 large or 2 small bunches arugula, roughly chopped
1/4 cup almond butter
1 1/2 cups chopped zucchini
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and chopped

1. Saute onions and leek tops in 1 tablespoon canola oil, with Mama Lil's peppers if desired, until onions are transparent but not caramelized.

2. In a large saucepan or small soup pot, place broccoli tops, salt, 2 cups water and oatmeal. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until broccoli is fork tender, about 5 minutes.

3. While soup cooks, heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini and remaining oil. Stir and cook until caramelized (browned). Remove from heat.

4. When broccoli is fork-tender, add arugula and cook until wilted. Remove from heat and add remaining water. Puree in small batched with almond butter until smooth and creamy. Stir in zucchini. Combine avocado with lemon juice and spoon a little into each dish. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

5. Serve with crusty bread.

I hate to confess this but I could have eaten the whole pot myself. That's how you know you really struck gold. Plus Tom liked it.

And of course, there's my Cooking Assistant thinks pre-wash is his given duty. I wouldn't exactly call him the most discriminating foodie.

But see how his eyes turn into little slits when he's happy. It's a 4 Paws Up winner!


Maija Haavisto said...

Sounds very tasty. I'll have to try it. I've used rice to thicken (and richen) soups before, but not oats. Usually I just go for cashew butter, though.

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

Oh the cashew butter. I love that and want to try a strawberry soup with it. Maybe a an easy additon when you run out of cashew butter.