Time is precious, time is money, time is always running out on us. Look at me, telling you stuff you already know too well.
Of all time-saving tips, cooking shortcuts get quite a bit of attention. Thirty minutes or less! Twenty minutes or less! Recipes you can cook while writing loved ones out of your will with the other hand! (That last one I made up.)
It’s true, we are busy — and cooking is just one of those things that can be a chore or a pleasure, or both. I have the luxury, sometimes, of not needing or wanting to save time while cooking. When you enjoy something, it’s everything else that you have to find extra hours for. Does Guy Fieri try to save time while grooming those majestic bleached tips and meticulous goatee? How about polishing them rings? Probably not. Not in Flavortown.
If you’re like me and you enjoy the process of cooking, this is for us. Simpler soups abound on the Internet — many of them, right here on this blog. Some days, though, being able to take the time to peel, blanch, sauté, puree, and separate stalks and florets feels like a treat. It’s like a game of cooking Bingo — how many skills can we use for one soup?
So, no, this is not a recipe I’d call “low maintenance.” Once again, I turned to Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, and took no shortcuts to make this faster or easier. I dirtied two pots and a pan, but also felt like an authentic Italian cook, much older and much wiser than I actually am, making a pot of soup that has been perfected by decades and generations. Maybe you like feeling that way too.
And despite the extra steps (which aren’t even difficult or time-consuming), I’d do all this again tomorrow. I wouldn’t share it with you if I didn’t.
What you get as your reward is a beautiful array of textures, a bright green color thanks to blanching, and a simple, clean broccoli flavor on top of a good, hearty broth. I would not ask for much more of a winter lunch, but look! Bread and cheese showed up. This is nice.
I hope you’re saving time and taking time accordingly: Less on things that suck (looking at you, laundry), more on things that make you giddy with excitement on a chilly day. That’s how we do January, and that’s how we do the rest of the year. Right?
- A bunch of broccoli (two stalks)
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups beef broth
- 2/3 cup cooked barley
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley, plus more for serving
- Freshly grated parmesan and good crusty bread, for serving
- Remove broccoli florets from the stalks, trim the tough ends (about 1/2 inch), and peel the tough outer skin. Chop coarsely into 1-inch pieces.
- Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil with the salt (2 tablespoons). Add the stalks. When water returns to a boil, wait two minutes, then add the broccoli florets. Use a slotted spoon to dunk them back under the surface if they float (you want them to stay bright green, and the salted water will keep them that way). When the water once again returns to a boil after you add the florets, boil for one minute, then remove pot from the heat and remove all broccoli from the pot using a slotted spoon. Reserve the cooking liquid to thin soup later.
- In a large saute pan over medium heat, heat up the olive oil and add garlic. Saute until the garlic is fragrant and light gold in color, then add all of the broccoli pieces. Turn up the heat to high and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes.
- Separate the broccoli florets and stalks and puree the stalks in a blender or food processor until smooth, adding cooking liquid from the pot if necessary (I added about 1/3 of a cup).
- In another soup pot, combine the pureed stalks, broth, and cooked barley. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, adding more broccoli cooking water if necessary to thin the soup. While it's simmering, chop the broccoli florets into small pieces. Stir in the florets and parsley, dilute soup again if necessary, and season to taste.
- Serve topped with grated parmesan and additional parsley. This serves 4 as a first course, or as a main course alongside bread and/or salad.