Friday, April 18, 2008

Low-Fat Broccoli Cheddar Soup: Of Cheese and Rock

Wednesday night, The Boyfriend and I jaunted off to Queens to play Rock Band with our friends A and A. I’m not a big video game fan, preferring to read, socialize, or hit myself in the head with a mallet. That said, Rock Band was the most incredibly fun game in the history of America, time, and space. Seriously, playing skee ball on a roller coaster in Oz wouldn’t even compare. I got to strum bass to a Pixies song, bang drums to an R.E.M. classic, and discovered that my vocal range most resembles that of ‘70s-era Ozzy Osbourne. Which, frankly, is a tad uncomfortable, but good to know for future karaoke parties/Black Sabbath auditions.

Our impromptu evening of RAWK curbed my cooking plans, so I was forced to make Cook’s Country Low-Fat Broccoli Cheddar Soup late last night instead. (And lemme tell you - nothing endears you to a roommate faster than running a blender at 11pm.) The soup is part of my self-imposed Use More Cheese mandate, as one of the drawbacks of writing a healthy cooking blog is the general absence of face-loving, soul-warming, high-in-fat foods like bacon, chocolate, cheese, and bacony chocolate cheese. Cooking Light’s Fresh Tomato Lasagna, Cheesy Eggplant Bake, and Light Mac and Cheese have also been also part of the effort.

Which brings us back to the soup. I liked it! It made a healthy, gloriously green side or main course, with enough frommage-y goodness to keep me from feeling like I was drinking a salad. There are, as always, a few notes:

1) Leeks are dirty, dirty birds, so they have to be cleaned pretty thoroughly before adding to a recipe. I use Lidia Bastianich’s method, which can be found here.

2) I didn’t puree the soup well enough at first, which resulted in something not unlike leaf-strewn rainwater. It took a few minutes on ICE CRUSH to finally get a smooth consistency, but the extra choppage was worth it in the end.

3) Both leeks and broccoli were pretty pricey in my ‘hood this week, and I’m betting that better shoppers could make this schlamiel for about two bucks cheaper.

Cook’s Country kindly provided the nutritional information, so only the price calculations are listed below. Happy weekend, everybody! (And go play Rock Band. Seriously. Now. Run.)

Low-Fat Broccoli Cheddar Soup
Makes 6 (large) servings
Adapted from Cook's Country.
Note: I know this picture is terrible. Please, please make it anyway. You won't be sorry.

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise and sliced thin
1-1/2 pounds broccoli, florets chopped, stems peeled and sliced thin
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth (or veggie)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
¾ cup fat-free evaporated milk
4 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
salt and pepper

1) In a large pot over medium heat, warm butter until melted. Add leeks and broccoli stems. Cook around 8 minutes, or until both are a tiny bit soft. Add garlic. Cook about 30 seconds to 1 minute, until fragrant. It will look like this:

Add broth and water. Jack up heat until everything starts to boil. When that happens, drop heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer around 8 minutes, or until broccoli stalks are pretty soft. Then, add broccoli florets. Cover again and cook another 5 minutes, until those are tender, too.

2) Kill heat. Add soup to blender. Blend/puree the heck out of it, until there are no broccoli bits left. I can't emphasize this enough: it should be totally, completely smooth. Add mustard, milk, and cheese to blender. "Puree until cheese is melted." Salt and pepper to taste. (You can do this in two batches. Whatever you do CC says, "make sure to fill your blender no more than halfway with hot soup.")

Very special note: this soup will last a few days in the fridge, but be careful reheating. Boiling it will cause the cheese to do weird things, so cook leftovers over medium-low.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
210 calories, 11 g fat, $1.34

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter: $0.05
2 leeks, white and light green parts only: $2.00
1-1/2 pounds broccoli: $2.97
2 garlic cloves: $0.06
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth: $1.00
1 cup water: FREE
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard: $0.18
¾ cup fat-free evaporated milk: $0.37
4 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 cup): $1.25
salt and pepper: $0.03
TOTAL: $8.01


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