PHOTO: John D. Ivanko/farmsteadchef.com
John D. Ivanko
March 19, 2014

As we while away the last few weeks before the growing season hits in full force, the local food scene can start looking pretty depressing. To tide you over until your first frost-sweetened peas sprout on the vine, turn to last summer’s bounty stored in your freezer for a nutrient-dense meal.

Like on many farming homesteads, our freezer is packed with last year’s bonanza of fruits and vegetables. Freezing turns out to be an excellent way to preserve this abundance, locking in nearly all the nutrients. All winter, we eat though the freezer and the broccoli cheese soup recipe below is one way we savor summer in the off-season. Our food costs are practically negligible.

We quickly blanch and freeze our broccoli heads and the florets that keep growing well into the autumn, packing them in half-quart-size freezer containers. We tray-freeze sliced peppers, and once frozen, place them in half-quart-size freezer bags. We’ve discovered that it’s most convenient to freeze items in recipe-sized portions.

Because we naturally power our farm and bed-and-breakfast, Inn Serendipity, with the wind and sun, we’ve adopted many strategies to live as energy savers. In the kitchen, that means we defrost our frozen items in our refrigerator, not on the counter, in the sink or quickly in a microwave. When you defrost the frozen items in the refrigerator, the cold is transferred to the inside of the unit, resulting in it having to turn on less, therefore saving energy. When you’ve been defrosting containers/frozen items this way over a decade, the cumulative energy savings can be meaningful. In the middle of the winter when you’re heating a home, why have bowls of frozen tomatoes sitting on the counter? It just takes a little planning to make sure our defrosted items are ready for when we need them. We also use up our garlic and storage onions for this recipe, eating them before they start sprouting.

Broccoli cheese soup is one of our favorite creamy comfort foods. The rich flavors and smooth texture of the soup satisfies our cravings while we wait for the arrival of spring. For this recipe, there will be a tasty piece of broccoli or a pepper in nearly every spoonful. If you also grow mushrooms during the winter, they’re great additions.

Recipe: Broccoli Cheese Soup

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 T. butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 cups broccoli, chopped (frozen or fresh)
  • 1 cup peppers, finely chopped (frozen or fresh)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded havarti or other melting cheese
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 cup shitake mushrooms, sliced (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 T. dried parsley flakes

Preparation

In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter. Add chopped onion and cook until softened, stirring often to prevent burning.

Pour in vegetable or chicken stock, then stir in broccoli, peppers and garlic. Let simmer, covered, until broccoli and peppers are tender, 10 to 15 minutes, depending on whether you used fresh or frozen veggies. Turn heat to low.

In a separate sauté pan over low heat, melt remaining butter and then whisk in flour for 4 to 6 minutes. Stir constantly. Near the end, whisk in milk so it’s thoroughly blended.

Add butter-flour-milk mixture to pot with broccoli. Stir in cheeses, wine, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Continue stirring until all cheese is completely melted and soup is smooth and thick. Avoid letting the temperature rise to a boil or a bubbly simmer, as this might cause cheese to separate.

Serve immediately, garnished with a sprinkle of parsley flakes.



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