Becky Holborn of Castle Rock, Wash., was in search of the recipe for the cream of broccoli soup from the Spaghetti Works & Deli in Longview, Wash. She said the original owner, Dolores Rasmussen, was very hands-on and oversaw all the wonderful home-style cooking. The restaurant is now closed and, unfortunately, I had no success tracking down the restaurant's founder or anyone associated with the place.
However, I too am a fan of a good bowl of cream of broccoli soup and have experimented with many recipes over the years. One of the best I've tried lately comes from Michael Chiarello, celebrity chef and cookbook author specializing in Italian-influenced California cuisine. His wonderful recipe for "very green broccoli soup" comes from an episode of his TV show, "Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello," that aired on the Food Network in 2007. The recipe was reprinted on foodnetwork.com.
This soup is simple and quick — it took me less than a half-hour to make — and it is a true nutritional powerhouse. I used a good quality low-sodium canned chicken broth and pureed the soup with my immersion blender. I tasted the soup before adding the cream at the end and I thought it was quite delicious. It would be no problem to make this soup diet-friendly if you replace the butter with olive oil and use low-fat buttermilk or reduce, or even eliminate, the dairy at the end completely. Thanks to the addition of the fresh spinach, thyme and lemon zest, this broccoli soup has amazing flavor without a lot of excess calories.
Sally Hamilton of Boise, Idaho, is looking for a miniature cheesecake recipe that was served at a wedding she went to about 15 years ago. She said the wedding cake was surrounded by the miniature cheesecakes nestled in foil cupcake liners. They had a berry topping and Hamilton was told that they were made with some type of canned milk. She said they were delicious and she would truly appreciate having the recipe.
Valerie Heegard of Bend, Ore., has been trying to find a great guacamole recipe. She said her sister-in-law had a really delicious recipe that used sour cream or cream cheese. Sadly, her sister-in-law passed away years ago, and Heegard never got her recipe.
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Very green broccoli soup
From "Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello"
Makes 4 servings
1 1/2 pounds broccoli
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 cup diced onion (1/4-inch pieces)
1/2 cup diced celery (1/4-inch pieces)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
5 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
2 cups packed spinach
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
1 cup heavy cream or buttermilk (if using buttermilk, cut the lemon zest in half)
Cut the broccoli florets from the stems. Peel the tough outer skin from the stems and trim off the fibrous ends. Cut the stems lengthwise into slices about 1/2-inch thick and then crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces.
Heat the olive oil and butter in a soup pot over medium-high heat until hot. Add the garlic and cook until light brown. Add the onion and celery, lower the heat to medium, and season with salt and pepper. Cook the vegetables slowly until tender, about 10 minutes. Regulate the heat so the vegetables cook without taking on color.
Add the thyme and stir. Add the broccoli stems, stock, and salt and pepper to taste, and bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, for about 3 minutes. Add the florets and continue to cook until very tender, about 5 minutes more.
Puree the soup in a blender in small batches. Add some of the spinach and some of the lemon zest to each batch and then puree it. If using an immersion blender, turn off the heat and add the spinach and lemon zest to the pot all at once, then puree. (The soup can be made to this point, covered and refrigerated for up to 1 day or frozen for up to 1 month.)
Reheat the soup over gentle heat. Stir in the cream or buttermilk. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Keep warm.