Our current Cook the Books Club selection is Eat Joy: Stories & Comfort Food From 31 Celebrated Writers, edited by Natalie Eve Garrett 1, a collection of short pieces focused on food memories, some joyful, some painful, all interesting. Each writer shares a moment or an aspect of their life, describes the food associated with it and provides the recipe. It is a pleasant read, a reminder of our deep connection with food which crosses nationalities and cultures and brings us together as humans.
In the years I have been writing, I have described a number of personal comfort recipes. Seeing as winter is here and storms lash out at the Northern California coast, soup is the food that right now brings me most comfort. I am actually a year-round soup eater (as my recent post featuring tromboncino squash soup shows2), but in the winter months, soup becomes a constant. My mother would make minestrone fairly regularly but only rarely would she purée vegetables to make passato di verdure. I loved the latter, smooth and silky. It's a familiar story: we crave what is unusual, rarely tasted. I carried this hankering for smooth soups to adulthood and even now, the last step, when the immersion blender3 does its magic, is the most satisfying.
The main ingredient of my current favorite soup is one of my favorite vegetables: Romanesco broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica). It's impossible not to be fascinated by this vegetable's shape, its geometric beauty. And it is not just pretty, it has also a great flavor, a cross between broccoli and cauliflower, and slightly nutty.
- 1 1/4 pounds / 20 ounces / 570 grams Romanesco broccoli (to yield a clean weight of 16 ounces / 450 grams)
- 3 tablespoons / 45 ml extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 4 ounces / 113 grams red onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 1 1/2 cups / 355 ml chicken broth or stock, or vegetable broth [in which case the soup is vegan], possibly homemade, divided
- 2 1/2 cups / 590 ml water
- 3 tablespoons nut butter of choice, like walnut cashew butter5 or roasted almond butter
- 1/2-1 teaspoon fine sea salt, depending on salt content of other ingredients and to taste
Heat the oven to 400 F / 205 C. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat.
Cut the Romanesco broccoli into bite-sized florets. Peel the stalk and cut it crosswise into coins.
Place the Romanesco broccoli in a bowl and drizzle it with 1 tablespoon / 15 ml of the olive oil. Toss well to coat.
Spread the Romanesco broccoli in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and place it in the oven. Roast the Romanesco broccoli for 20-22 minutes, until just tender.
Warm up the remaining 2 tablespoons / 30 ml of olive oil in a pot. Add the onion and stir well. Cook for a couple of minutes on medium-low heat, then add the grated ginger and stir well. Cover the pot and cook on low heat until the onion is soft, stirring often.
Add the Romanesco broccoli to the pot, stir and after a minute pour 1 cup / 240 ml of the broth and the water into the pot. The liquid should barely cover the vegetables. Cover the pot, bring to a boil and cook on low heat until you can mash a floret of Romanesco broccoli with the back of a wooden spoon against the side of the pot.
Sprinkle the sea salt and stir. Let cool for 20-30 minutes, then purée with an immersion blender. Before you finish the processing, heat up the remaining broth in a mug and mix in the nut butter. Pour into the soup and process briefly to blend well. Taste and adjust salt. Add some water to make the soup reach desired consistency.
When ready to eat, heat the soup, ladle it in bowls and serve immediately.
1 NPR interview with the book's editor
2 My recent post on Tromboncino squash soup
3 Article on industrial designer Gabriel Lluelles the inventor of the immersion blender, (which in Italy is sometimes called a minipimer)
5 I love this company's nut butters
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
or launch the zuppa di broccolo romanesco audio file [mp3].
[Depending on your set-up, the audio file will be played within the browser or by your mp3 player application. Please, contact me if you encounter any problems.]
FTC disclosure: I have received the table linen free of charge from the manufacturer (la FABBRICA del LINO). I have not and will not receive any monetary compensation for presenting it on my blog. The experience shared and the opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.