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Hearty Broccoli Soup

TIMES FOOD STYLIST

MENU Hearty Winter Broccoli Soup Torta rustica Melba toast Vanilla ice cream with toasted almonds Does soup have to simmer all day to be truly satisfying? No. This Hearty Winter Broccoli Soup, for instance, is rich-tasting and fast-cooking.

It’s a fail-safe cream soup that depends upon simple ingredients: frozen chopped broccoli and canned chicken broth. It is thickened naturally by pureeing half of the cooked broccoli with the broth; the other half is stirred in at the end to provide texture. If you’re counting calories, substitute nonfat milk for the half and half, and low-fat cheese for the Swiss.

To serve, ladle the hot soup into bowls, top with wafer-thin slices of cheese and allow the cheese to melt--there’s no need to put the soup under the broiler. Accompany with variations of Melba toast. To prepare, slice French bread very thin, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sesame seeds, poppy seeds or black pepper. Pop them into a 350-degree oven for eight to 10 minutes until golden brown.

Torta rustica, an Italian version of a layered baked sandwich loaf filled with sausage meats, cheeses and assorted vegetables, or a thin slice of any meat terrine may be purchased at the deli section of a supermarket make fine side dishes.

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For dessert, a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with toasted almonds provides just enough sweetness and crunch to round out the meal.

HEARTY WINTER BROCCOLI SOUP

Staples

1 large onion

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1 tablespoon butter

Shopping

2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped broccoli

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can clear chicken broth

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1 pint milk or half and half

1/4 pound aged Swiss cheese

1. Chop 1 onion to measure 1 cup. Cut 1/4 pound aged Swiss cheese into thin slices.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in large saucepan until melted. Saute onion in butter until tender.

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3. Add 1 (10-ounce) package broccoli to saucepan. Pour over 1 (14 1/2-ounce) can clear chicken broth. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 3 to 4 minutes, until broccoli is thawed and just tender.

4. Puree mixture until smooth. Return all to saucepan. Stir in remaining package of broccoli and 1/2 cup milk or half and half. Cook over low heat, stirring, until heated through. Add more milk if soup seems thick.

5. Ladle into individual bowls. Top with cheese slices.

Makes 4 servings.

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