Weeknight Hero

I spent most of March really wanting a hot bowl of broccoli and cheddar soup. I have no idea why it took me five weeks to realize I could make an entire pot of it in my own kitchen. But last week I did, and even shared a bowl or two with Rich and Lilli. I wasn’t going to mention it here, as I had made up my mind to share an asparagus recipe with you because it is finally, officially springtime, and hot creamy soup seemed so unseasonal.

sugar snap peas

But then I noticed a post on Facebook from an old friend of mine, saying he was going to try and recreate Quizno’s broccoli and cheddar soup. He explained that he likes to make big pots of soups and stews and freeze them for when he and his wife both worked late. “Make some popovers or some fresh corn bread and I’m a hero.” Clearly the universe was sending me a message, and that message was to share this soup recipe with everyone so that we could all be weeknight heroes.

So I made this soup a second time over the long holiday weekend, and froze it for the next time I want this soup, whether or not it’s in season.

A few things worth mentioning: I totally Sandra Lee’d this one. Rich tells me to not be so hard on myself and that Sandra Lee would have doctored a can of stuff from the pantry, but I definitely cut a bunch of corners on this one. And you know what? I’d do it again. For instance, instead of buying a head of broccoli, I chopped up a bag of broccoli florets. I used a bag of shredded cheddar cheese instead of standing at the counter and grating a block of it. And I used a box of organic vegetable stock I keep in the pantry.

The recipe is from Soup: A Kosher Collection by Pam Reiss, a cookbook I know I snatched off a pile of books to review from when I worked at a Jewish paper over a decade ago. Every recipe I’ve tried has been great, and the author not only categorizes the recipes by dairy, meat, parve, and Passover appropriate, but also says whether each recipe is good to freeze or not.

So there you have it. A great soup that comes together in less than a half an hour. Have it for dinner tonight. Or have it for lunch next month. The choice is yours.

Broccoli and Cheddar Soup from Soup: A Kosher Collection by Pam Reiss

Ingredients

1 small yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped (I used two large shallots)

2 Tbsp/25 mL olive oil

1 lb./500 g broccoli florets (stems optional) cut into small pieces

1 tsp./5 mL salt

¼ tsp. /1 mL black pepper

5 cups/1.25 L stock

1 cup/250 mL half-and-half (I used heavy cream)

5 Tbsp./75 mL all-purpose flour

½ lb./250 g grated cheddar cheese

Directions

Over medium-low heat, sweat the onion in olive oil for 5-8 minutes. Wilt the onion, but don’t brown it.

If you are using broccoli stems as well as florets, peel them with a vegetable peeler or paring knife to remove the tough, fibrous skin from the tender flesh, then chop them up.

Add the broccoli, salt, pepper and stock to the soup pot, cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down so that the soup simmers on low and cook approximately 10 minutes. The broccoli should be tender but not overcooked.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the half-and-half (or heavy cream) and flour. Whisk this mixture into the soup and allow to simmer another 2-3 minutes, until the soup thickens.

Stir in the cheese until it is well incorporated and serve.

There Is No Wrong Answer

Growing up, Passover was the special time of year when my mom let us eat junk food. Looking back, I realize that had a lot to do with the availability of kosher junk food. The stores only stocked it at Passover, which meant it was the one time of year we got to have marshmallows or sugary rainbow fruit jells. Now that I’m a mom, I realize I’ve developed the same sort of habit in my own house. I lay low on rainbow hued candies, but Lilli is enjoying chocolate and Bissli, my favorite of the Israeli junk foods.

Lilli at zoo

As a general rule, I don’t serve matzo at my table; not worth the stomach ache. We do enjoy Tam Tams, and lucky for us, we haven’t had to convince Lilli to eat dried fruit alongside her crackers. She ate seven prunes in a row this weekend, and calls dried apples “apple candy.”

For the past few years I have purchased one box of matzo for the entire holiday, and it’s to fuel my Passover junk food tradition. Matzo crack, or matzo toffee if you’re feeling fancy, is pretty much the best thing you can do to matzo. Even better than shmearing it with Temp Tee whipped cream cheese and topping it with cherry preserves. I swear.

Research has told me that variations of this recipe have been floating around since 1985, which is the year that Marcy Goldman – she of the divine honey cakedeveloped this one. Now, I’ve seen many versions: Salted butter, unsalted butter, margarine. Sprinkled with salt (unnecessary if using salted butter),topped with nuts. White sugar, brown sugar. Let me be clear: IT’S ALL DELICIOUS. My recommendation is to trust your own palate and go with what suits you. There is no wrong answer for this one.

I saw a recipe earlier today that called for 2 cups, or 12 ounces of chocolate chips. Tonight I noticed that the Liebers’ bag of chocolate chips I always use is actually 9 ounces, and it works perfectly. This year I got all fancy and purchased a whisk and an offset spatula. But a fork to stir the sugar and butter into toffee and a butter knife to spread the chocolate works perfectly fine.

Matzo Crack

Ingredients

3 or 4 pieces of matzo, broken into large and small pieces to fit the pan

¾ cup or (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, cubed

1 cup packed brown sugar (white sugar is fine if that’s what you have)

1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 275F.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place matzos in an even layer on the baking sheet. You will need to break the pieces of matzo to fit the pan. I find four pieces is generally how many it takes to fill the entire pan.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add sugar and immediately reduce the temperature to low. Cook, stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved, thickens and begins to bubble.

Drizzle the now-toffee over the matzo and spread it to cover using a butter knife, spatula or offset spatula.

Transfer the pan to the preheated oven and bake until the toffee gets shiny, which should take about 15 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and evenly sprinkle the entire pan with the chocolate chips. Let stand for five minutes. The heat of the toffee will have begun to melt the chocolate; spread the chips across the matzos with an offset spatula, spatula or butter knife. If you’re using, sprinkle with salt and/or nuts.

Transfer the entire pan of matzo crack to the fridge and chill it for at least two hours.

Break the chilled matzo crack into pieces. Best to keep it stored in the refrigerator, although you probably won’t have leftovers.