It’s officially soup weather here in California. America is in the thick of February, the coldest weeks of winter, and no matter how hard I try I can’t seem to stay warm. I have a little space heater under my desk; it’s constantly on “high” blowing warm air directly onto my sock feet. I sip tea all day long and snuggle inside my sweater, dreaming about that Mediterranean vacation I took with my husband several summers ago. Back in November, I was excited to welcome back the cold. I looked forward to the rain, the clouds, and that brief (and relatively mild) change of season we experience here in Southern California. But never mind that. I’m ready for spring… it can’t get here fast enough!
The good news about soup weather is that it coaxes me into testing new recipes. I dream up soups all year long, even when it’s hot outside. I have a notebook where I scribble down recipe inspiration, and it’s full of soup ideas. Recently I looked in the notebook and noticed a scribble I made several months ago:
Broccoli soup, thickened with potatoes. Tahini??
The idea may have occurred to me after making a batch of my Autumn Sweet Potato Soup, which is enhanced by peanut butter. If peanut butter can add richness and creaminess to soup, why not tahini (which is essentially sesame butter, or paste)? I decided to play around using up some ingredients I had in the fridge… broccoli, onion, garlic, a parsnip, some fresh dill. After spicing it just so, I served a bowl to my husband. I didn’t expect to nail it on the first try, but he was thrilled. After two bowlfuls, he declared it one of his new favorites. I like it too. We’re trying to work more vegetables into our winter diet, and this soup is a perfect way to get our healthy cruciferous greens. It’s vegan, gluten free, and dairy free, yet also creamy and filling. The soup is rich in protein and calcium thanks to the tahini paste. It’s health food that doesn’t really taste like health food. I’m sure I’ll be making this one a few more times before soup season comes to a close.
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- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, minced
- 2 tsp crushed garlic
- 1 1/2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and diced (about 3 medium potatoes)
- 5-6 oz parsnip, peeled and chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 cups vegetable broth
- 1 lb broccoli florets (about 3 heads of broccoli- if weighing with stems, 1 1/2 lbs)
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
- 3/4 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (if sensitive to spice, use just a pinch)
- Pinch cardamom
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup tahini paste (from raw seeds is best)
- Fresh dill for garnish (optional)
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium. Add the minced onion and saute for about 10 minutes, till softened. Add the garlic and saute for another 2 minutes till fragrant.
- Stir in the diced russet potatoes, parsnip, and bay leaves. Cover the ingredients with vegetable broth, stir, and bring to a boil.Let the ingredients simmer for about 20 minutes till the potatoes and parsnips are soft.
- Meanwhile, remove the broccoli florets from their stems (you should end up with about 1 lb of florets) and place them into a food processor. Pulse till the florets have been chopped into tiny pieces. If you have a smaller food processor, you may have to do this in batches. You can also chop the broccoli by hand, but make sure it is chopped very fine-- this will speed cooking time, ensuring that the broccoli stays green and retains its vitamins.
- When the potatoes and parsnip have softened, remove the bay leaves. Add the chopped broccoli florets to the soup along with the chopped dill, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne and cardamom. If you're sensitive to spice, add the cayenne with care-- it's spicy! Using 1/4 tsp as the recipe suggests will give it a slight kick, which I really like. Bring the soup back to a simmer for about 5 minutes till the broccoli has softened. While the broccoli cooks, season with salt and pepper to taste. I use about 3/4 tsp of salt and a dash of pepper, more or less, depending on how salty my vegetable broth is.
- As soon as the broccoli softens, remove from heat. Stir in 1/2 cup tahini paste till smooth.Use an immersion blender to blend the soup till it's pureed and creamy. Serve hot. Garnish each bowl with a small sprig of fresh dill, if desired.
- Notes: for a slightly thinner, more appetizer-like soup texture, reduce 1 1/2 lbs of potatoes to 1 lb of potatoes. If you aren't worried about keeping the soup vegan, you can use chicken broth in the place of vegetable broth. For those who don't have an issue with gluten, I highly recommend serving the soup in a sourdough bowl, or stirring in a few toasted sourdough pieces to soak up the soup. Delish!
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