Look for deeply green, tight heads of broccoli. I typically avoid any heads that have yellowing florets or seem died out. If you like a slightly creamier soup, stir in a generous dollop of creme fraiche after pureeing. You can easily make this soup vegan by using olive oil and omitting the cheese/creme fraiche, and you can make it gluten-free by doing something in place of the croutons.
5-6 ounce chunk of artisan whole wheat bread, torn into little pieces (less than 1-inch), roughly 3 cups total
1/4 cup butter or olive oil (I like 1/2 and 1/2)
1 1/2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes (1 1/2 cups)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 1/2 cups light, good-tasting vegetable broth
1 large head of broccoli (12 ounces or 3/4 lb.), cut into small florets
2/3 cup freshly grated aged Cheddar, plus more for topping
1 - 3 teaspoons whole grain mustard, to taste
smoked paprika, more olive oil, creme fraiche (optional)
Preheat your oven to 350F degrees and place the torn bread in a large bowl. In a small saucepan heat the butter until it has melted. Whisk the mustard and salt into the butter and pour the mixture over the bread. Toss well, then turn the bread onto a baking sheet and bake for 10 - 15 minutes, or until the croutons are golden and crunchy. Toss them once or twice with a metal spatula along the way.
While the croutons are toasting, melt the butter (or olive oil) in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the shallots, onion, and a big pinch of salt. Saute for a couple minutes. Stir in the potatoes, cover, and cook for about four minutes, just long enough for them to soften up a bit. Uncover, stir in the garlic, then the broth. Bring to a boil, taste to make sure the potatoes are tender, and if they are stir in the broccoli. Simmer just long enough for the broccoli to get tender throughout, 2 - 4 minutes.
Immediately remove the soup from heat and puree with an immersion blender. Add half the cheddar cheese and the mustard (a little bit a a time). If you are going to add any creme fraiche, this would be the time to do it. Now add more water or broth if you feel the need to thin out the soup at all. Taste and add more salt if needed.
Serve sprinkled with croutons, the remaining cheese, a drizzle of olive oil, and a tiny pinch of smoked paprika.
Serves 4 - 6.
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