I love soup in the springtime. I tend to be a little chilly in these transitional months, even as the temperature warms. Maybe it's the moist spring air, or because I'm exiting my layers a little too enthusiastically. Or, perhaps, it's true what Husband says: that I don't possess a functioning metabolism. Regardless of the reason, I'm in a perpetual state of goose bumps from October through May.
Lately, my cravings have been running increasingly green, just like the landscape. A few weeks ago, I had a pot of asparagus and fiddlehead soup to warm me. Now, it's cream of broccoli. The following recipe was inspired by Twelve Months of Monastery Soups by Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette. Even though it was published 15 years ago, the book keeps coming up in conversations with various unconnected people. By the third mention, I knew I had to get a copy of the book. I'm glad I did. French monks really know their soups!
But there's another reason why I love this book. It's because of the image I've cultivated in my mind about the author, which I should note is entirely fictional. I imagine Brother Victor-Antoine alone in the kitchen of his stone monastery in the picturesque Hudson Valley cooking up cauldrons of bubbling soup. Meanwhile, two monks, one quite young and another significantly grayer, are walking silently down the arched, stone colonnade, their dark robes cinched at the waist with rope belts. Suddenly, as they approach the kitchen, their ears are assaulted by a tirade of the filthiest, most abominable swear words ever conceived in French, English, and Latin, as well as some that haven't been invented, yet. The obscenities, amplified by the cold stone, echo across the courtyard.
The young, sheltered monk stops in his tracks with a look of horror. The older one doesn't even break stride. "The soup must be especially good today," he notes. Observing that the young monk is still having trouble recovering, he adds, "Have you met Brother Victor, yet? He has an unholy way in the kitchen, but the soup? The soup is an act of God."
(This is what happens when my new favorite cookbook is written by a monk named Tourrette!)
Cream of Broccoli Soup (print-friendly version)
I love this &*$#@^ soup! May I suggest a light grating of the sharpest cheddar cheese you have on hand? I used Cabot Seriously Sharp.
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 lb. fresh broccoli, cut into florets
3 medium potatoes, peeled, cubed
8 cups veggie stock, chicken stock, or water
1 cup heavy cream
Pinch of cayenne
Salt and black pepper to taste
In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, 4-5 minutes. Add the broccoli and potatoes, and stir to coat. Add the stock or water, increase heat, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat, maintaining a simmer, and cook for 1 hour, until vegetables are tender. (Note: The original recipe calls for you to add all of the veggies to the pot with the water/stock right away, forgoing the oil. You can do it that way, if you prefer.)
If you have a stick blender, you can puree the soup right in the pot. If you're using a regular blender, let it cool until no longer hot and steamy, and puree in several batches, never filling the blender more than half full. Add the cream, cayenne, and salt and pepper. Reheat. Serve with grated sharp cheddar cheese.
Source: Adapted from Twelve Months of Monastery Soups by Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette. He probably doesn't actually swear (too much!).