OPINION | FRONT BURNER: Broccoli Cheese Soup converts former broccoli hater

Broccoli Cheese Soup (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)
Broccoli Cheese Soup (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

I don't love broccoli. I don't even like broccoli. At best, I tolerate broccoli.

But I know broccoli is good for me so I try to find ways to eat more of it without feeling like some sort of punishment.

This has been a life-long struggle.

I can vividly remember my paternal grandmother attempting to entice my taste buds with melted Velveeta-topped steamed broccoli. I ate one bite, promptly scraped the cheese sauce off the broccoli and proceeded to sop up the melted cheese with a bit of bread, leaving the naked broccoli on my plate.

I have (and use) her metal steamer basket, the very same one she cooked those broccoli florets in, but I don't use it for broccoli.

I remember reading somewhere that children need to be exposed to new foods a minimum of 10 times before the new flavor is likely to be embraced. So fully acknowledging that even in middle age I have the tastes of a child, every so often revisit foods I dislike.

Some of these revisits have been successful — brussels sprouts and radishes now grace my plate; others only solidified my deep disgust — beets and mushrooms still taste like slimy dirt.

My visits with broccoli have been hit and miss. I rather enjoy the stalks steamed until tender and served with lemon and butter, but I don't care for the gritty crowns prepared in the same manner. Yet, I relish the tiny florets in that potluck salad of broccoli, dried cranberries, bacon and cheddar in a creamy dressing.

Recently, an inexplicable craving for broccoli cheese soup struck. So I went with it and it was delicious.

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Broccoli Cheese Soup

  • 1 bunch fresh broccoli (1 to 1 ¼ pounds)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced OR 1 tablespoon garlic paste
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups broth — vegetable or chicken
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon onion base such as Better Than Bouillon Sauteed Onion Base (see note)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced or julienned carrot
  • ¼ teaspoon celery seed
  • Ground black pepper
  • ½ cup half-and-half or heavy cream
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Trim off any leaves or brown spots from the broccoli stalks and then using a paring knife, separate the crown from the stalk. Separate the crown into florets. Cut off and discard the bottom inch of the stalk, and then peel and thinly slice the stalk. Set sliced stalk and florets aside.

In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic (and diced onion, if using fresh onion) and saute until tender. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk until flour is completely coated in butter and the flour is lightly browned. Whisking constantly, slowly pour in the broth and then the milk, whisking until incorporated. Add the onion base (if using), broccoli, carrot and celery seed. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to simmer. Cook until broccoli and carrots are tender, about 8 minutes.

Remove from heat and puree to desired consistency using an immersion blender or working in batches with a traditional blender. Return to low heat and stir in the half-and-half, and then add the cheese, one handful at a time, stirring until cheese is completely melted between additions. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Note: Look for onion base with the broth and bouillon at the supermarket. If you can't find onion base, saute 1 small diced onion with the garlic until tender and golden brown.

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