Broccoli and Red Pepper Cheddar Chowder

2013-05-03 16.29.42

Spring has pretty much been a bust here in Chicago, although I can feel dagger eyes from people living in Colorado, Minnesota and northern Wisconsin.  Yes, I know I really shouldn’t complain too much, but still.  It’s May and I’m still throwing on my parka to fetch the morning paper. Grrr!

These days of “not quite winter but almost summer” can also be a bit conflicting from a food point of view.  Tired of stews and heavy casseroles, but hard to muster any excitement for the grill.  Traditional spring delicacies like fiddlehead ferns, ramps and morels are scarce, unless you happen to own a high end restaurant.  So for now I’m just going to settle for a bowl of this amazingly delicious soup that satisfies both my need for something a little warm and yet a little fresh and green.

It’s just about the easiest thing in the world to make, and I will bet you that even the little ones in your home will enjoy this (especially if you go with Option 2 and puree the entire soup).

Go figure, in the time it’s taken me to write this post, the sun has come out and the temperature has climbed to a balmy 70°.  Hiya Spring, what took you so long to get here?

Spring Collage

Broccoli and Red Pepper Cheddar Chowder

1 small bunch broccoli (about 1/2 a pound)

1 large or a few medium boiling potatoes (about 1/2 a pound total), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 TBS butter

1 large onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 large garlic clove, finely chopped

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp dry mustard

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 TBS all-purpose flour

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese plus more for garnish

1 TBS Savory Spice Smoky Hills Cheese Powder or Penzey’s Sicilian Salad Seasoning blend (optional)

Cut off broccoli stems and discard lower third of stems. Peel stems and finely chop. Cut remaining broccoli into 1-inch florets.

Bring approximately 3-4 quarts of water to a boil and add 1 TBS salt. Blanch florets for about 2-3 minutes until just tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer broccoli to an ice bath to stop the cooking. Transfer 3 cups of the cooking liquid to a glass measuring jar and set aside. Drain florets and place on a paper towel to soak up any excess liquid; set aside.

Melt butter in a 4 quart heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Add potato, onions, bell pepper, broccoli stems and garlic.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 8-10 minutes. Add cumin, mustard, salt and pepper and continue to cook for about 1 minute.  Add flour and cook, stirring occasionally, for an additional 2 minutes.  Pour in reserved cooking liquid, stir and partially cover.  Simmer for about 10 minutes, until potatoes are tender.

Reduce heat to low.  Add cream, grated cheese and optional cheese powder.  Stir over low heat until cheese is melted, then adjust seasonings.

Option 1) Remove 2 cups of soup and puree in blender.  Return to pot, add reserved broccoli florets, stirring for a minute or to to reheat. Serve with additional grated cheddar cheese.

Option 2) Puree entire contents of soup until smooth. Return to pot, add reserved broccoli florets, stirring for a minute or two to reheat. Serve with additional grated cheddar cheese.

Serves 4

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