Soups


ALMOST FAMOUS BROCOLI-CHEDDAR SOUP
(Similar to the Panera Bread broccoli-cheddar soup)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups half-and-half
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4   7-inch sourdough bread boules (round loaves)    Optional
4 cups broccoli florets (about 1 head)
1 large carrot, diced
2 1/2 cups (about 8 oz) grated sharp white and yellow cheddar cheese, plus more for garnish

Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
Whisk in the flour and cook until golden, 3 to 4 minutes, then gradually whisk in the half-and-half until smooth.
Add the chicken broth, bay leaves and nutmeg, then season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, until thickened, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the bread bowls: Using a sharp knife, cut a circle into the top of each load, leaving a 1-inch border all around.
Remove the bread top, then hollow out the middle with a fork or your fingers, leaving a thick bread shell.

Add the broccoli and carrot to the broth mixture and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes.
Discard the Bay Leaves.
Puree the soup in batches in a blender until smooth; you'll still have flecks of carrot and broccoli.  Return to the pot.
(Or puree the soup in the pot with an immersion blender.)

Add the cheese to the soup and whisk over medium heat until melted. 
Add up to 3/4 cup water if the soup is too thick.
Ladle into the bread bowls and garnish with cheese.


BUTTERNUT SOUP WITH PARMESAN AND SAGE

1 cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
3 cups low-salt chicken broth
Butternut squash - about 1 1/2 pounds peeled and chopped into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

In a large stockpot over medium heat, saute onion in oil 4 minutes.
Add seasonings, broth and squash and bring mixture to a boil.
Reduce heat; simmer 20 minutes, until squash is tender.
Puree half the soup in a blender; return to pot.
Stir in Parmesan cheese and serve.

Serves 6.  79 calories per serving.


CURRIED BUTTERNUT-SQUASH SOUP

3 tablespoons margarine or butter
2 large onions, sliced
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 large butternut squashes (3 1/2 pounds total) peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch chunks.
2 cans (14 1/2 ounces each) chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt

In 5-quart Dutch oven or saucepot, melt 2 tablespoons margarine or butter over medium heat.
Add onions and cook 18 to 20 minutes, until golden and tender, stirring occasionally.
Add curry and remaining 1 tablespoon margarine or butter and cook 1 minute, stirring.
Add squash, broth, salt and 2 1/4 cups water; heat to boiling.
Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer soup until squash is very tender, about 20 minutes.

In blender at low speed with center part of cover removed to allow steam to escape, blend squash mixture in small batches until very smooth.
Pour soup into large bowl after each batch.

Return blended soup to Dutch oven; heat through.
Makes about 12 cups or 12 first-course servings.

[The secret to making this low-fat soup thick and velvety smooth without a drop of cream is using a blender to puree the soup in small batches.  It freezes very well - reheat soup directly from frozen state when ready to serve.