Fake it til you make it.
Headinginto another grey and rainy Seattle spring, I’m finding myself in need of a huge dose of as-if.
There’s something about spring in the Pacific Northwest that’s particularly maddening. Seattle erupts into bloom almost overnight. The city’s sidewalks are a symphony of tulips, hyacinths, magnolias and cherry blossoms. And of course there are stretches of sunshine. But for the most part, it’s rain. Hours and hours of grey and drizzle. Naturally, Seattleites are used to wet weather. But in March and April, when spring is so patently in the air, there’s something unbearable about more rain.
Having just returned from ten sun-soaked days in Palm Springs, I’m finding the grey skies especially frustrating. I’m having a hard time hauling myself out of bed in the mornings. I’ve been moping around, uninterested in activities I normally find fun. I down a ridiculous (possibly unhealthy) quantity of coffee every day in an attempt to jolt my brain into action.
In the kitchen, too, we’re in that odd in-between season. I am no longer excited about winter squash, parsnips and kale. I’m craving tiny, sweet strawberries. Bright rhubarb. Asparagus and tender spring peas. None of which will be making an appearance at the farmers market for weeks.
So in an effort to lift my spirits, I’ve been forcing myself to get out of the house. Taking walks as soon as the sun makes even the briefest of appearances. Trying out different coffee shops in my new neighborhood in order to fit some human contact into my workday. Trying to dwell on the beauty of all these spring flowers, rather than complaining about the rain.
And making batches of this soup.
There’s nothing especially spring-y about broccoli soup, I know. But the bright green color and the delicate flavor of leeks sautéed in butter make me feel like sunny days are right around the corner. A dollop of basil pesto adds a layer of summertime flavor. And this soup comes together in 30 minutes flat. Which means I can manage to cook myself a homemade meal even on low-energy days.
So until sunnier days roll around, you’ll find me faking it til I make it and whipping up pot after pot of this bright, mood-lifting soup.
Broccoli-Leek Soup with Basil Pesto
- 1 lb broccoli
- 4 tablespoons butter (or olive oil)
- 1 large leek, halved lengthwise and sliced into ¼-inch half moons
- Coarse sea salt, to taste
- 3-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- ¼ cup basil pesto (high quality store-bought or homemade--I’ve included a recipe below in case you need one)
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 1 oz (2 tablespoons) cream cheese
- Good quality olive oil, to garnish
- Pinch ground chile flakes or cayenne, to garnish
- 4 fried or poached eggs, to serve (optional)
*Notes: For most pureed soups, I like a super-smooth texture so I puree them in a blender and sometimes even strain them. For this soup, I prefer a more rustic texture so I opt for my hand blender and don’t process it for very long.
- If you don’t have a hand blender, you can puree the soup in batches in a blender. If you go this route, take care not to fill your blender jar more than ⅔ full, otherwise the steam from the hot soup can blow the lid off your blender. Getting burned by hot soup is no fun--trust me on this one.
- If you need a little guidance on poached eggs, this is how I do it.
Cut the florets off the broccoli stalks and set aside. Trim any brown spots off the stalks, halve lengthwise if thick and slice ¼-inch thick.
Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the sliced leeks, broccoli stems and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the broccoli stems are just starting to become tender, about 5 minutes. Add the broccoli florets and 3 cups of the stock. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the soup is hot and the florets are just tender, about 5 minutes more. The goal is to keep the soup bright green and for the broccoli to keep some of its texture, so take care not to overcook it.
Remove the soup from the heat and stir in the pesto, cream and cream cheese. Puree with a hand blender until there are no large chunks of broccoli or leek. Add a little more stock if you’d like your soup a bit thinner. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Spoon hot soup into serving bowls and top with a fried or poached egg (if using). Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with chile. Serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings.
2 ounces (1 packed cup) basil leaves
1 ounce (¼ cup) grated parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
3 tablespoons or more good olive oil
1 clove garlic
Splash of lemon juice
Pinch sea salt
Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until the pesto reaches desired consistency. Thin with a little olive oil if desired. Taste and adjust salt and lemon to taste.