Mint and a drizzle of curried yogurt give healthy, creamy [but cream-free] Broccoli Mint Soup the vibrant, fresh taste of spring. Serving it room temperature makes for an elegant, surprising first course. Recipe below.
Sometimes watching television can be good for you. On a recent Saturday morning, I was flipping through the channels trying to get a weather forecast [answer—it started raining as we pulled out of our parking place later that morning]. Suddenly, I saw someone cooking and was of course immediately glued to the set [we don't have cable, so moments like this are rare for me]. It was New York chef Paul Liebrandt making a version of this lively, lowfat soup on the Early Show on CBS.
Chef at the critically acclaimed Tribeca restaurant Corton, Liebrandt has been branded both a tempestuous diva of the old school and an English wunderkind, by the same publication, no less. On the Early Show, he seemed gracious and poised as they hurried him through three dishes in what seemed like 2.3 minutes. The soup was the one that caught my eye. Broccoli is one of those insanely good for you cruciferous vegetables. The problem with most creamy soups made from broccoli is that they’re loaded with cream—or cheese. Delicious, of course, but suddenly less healthy. This soup is broccoli, water, mint, salt and pepper, with a lively flavor boost from a swirl of lowfat curried yogurt with lime zest.
Marion is fond of quoting Robert DeNiro’s character in the thriller Ronin. He’s part of a crew that’s supposed to take something from some really bad men who really don’t want it taken from them. He insists on doing reconnaisance on the attack point and is told they already have a map. To which he says, “The map is not the territory.” The soup Liebrandt described as he made it on TV was not the recipe posted on the CBS website. I took that as license to put my own spin on it. Well, my spin aided by Marion.
When we started talking about the soup, she remembered a broccoli soup she’d made years ago that was falling absolutely flat. In desperation, she added fresh mint. Instant transformation. I wasn’t skeptical, even for a moment. I knew right away that mint would be part of this soup. This being a new recipe—and one I was freely riffing on—we stood in the kitchen, sampling from the food processor and tweaking. We tasted it first without the mint. Good. Healthy. But when the mint was added, magic happened. Suddenly, we were tasting spring—or summer, even.
Broccoli Mint Soup
Makes about 4 cups, 4 first course servings [see Kitchen Notes]
1 pound broccoli, roughly chopped, about 6 cups [can include stems]
4 cups water
1 tablespoon fresh mint, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons yogurt [see Kitchen Notes]
2 tablespoons buttermilk [see Kitchen Notes]
1/2 teaspoon garam masala [or curry powder—see Kitchen Notes]
zest of 1 lime
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Bring water to a boil in a large covered saucepan. Lightly salt water, add broccoli and cover pot. Cook broccoli for 5 minutes. Drain broccoli, reserving cooking water, and let cool slightly.
Transfer broccoli to food processor, add 2 cups of cooking water and purée for 1 to 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of processor bowl, add mint and continue to blend until smooth. Some recipes caution against blending too much. Not this one—blend the bejesus out of it, to make it nice and creamy. There will still be a slight texture to it when you’ve finished. That’s fine. Set aside and let cool to room temperature.
Mix together yogurt, buttermilk, garam masala or curry powder and lime zest. Ladle soup into serving bowls, drizzle with yogurt mixture and serve immediately.
How many servings? This recipe will make four small first course servings, a nice, fresh start to a meal. Or it can serve two generously as a lunch or dinner with a sandwich—with possible leftovers.
Yogurt and buttermilk. The original recipe called for plain yogurt. During the TV preparation, someone threw out the term Greek yogurt. I went with that. Delicious but way too thick. So I thinned it with equal parts buttermilk. If you use regular yogurt, use less buttermilk, adding it gradually until you reach a consistency that will easily pour from the spoon for drizzling on soup before serving.
Garam masala. While it’s primarily thought of as a Northern Indian spice mix, garam masala is actually used throughout South Asia and varies by region. It doesn’t scream Indian food and it doesn’t pack much in the way of heat, but it adds a delicious spiciness. You can find it in the spice aisle of many supermarkets or in Indian grocery stores. The Spice House also sells it in their stores and online. Wherever you get it, read the ingredients. If salt is too high up the list, don’t get it—some we’ve tried are waaaay too salty. If you’re adventurous and would like to make your own, here’s a recipe at food-nepal.com. If you can’t find garam masala, you can substitute curry powder. The original recipe suggested Madras curry powder, but I would go for one with less heat—you don’t want fire to get in the way of the freshness of the mint and broccoli.