Creamy Broccoli Soup

via Mark Bittman.

Always cook the vegetables until very tender, but no more than that; cover the pot while the vegetables cook to prevent too much of the stock from evaporating. Seasonings that require cooking, like onion, should be added with the vegetables. But those that do not, like herbs and spices, are best added before reheating the mixture so they retain their freshness.

2 cups broccoli florets and peeled stems cut into chunks
3 cups chicken stock
1 clove garlic, peeled and cut in half
1 cup milk, cream or yogurt
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Combine the broccoli and the stock in a saucepan. Simmer, covered, until the broccoli is tender, about 10 minutes. During the last minute or so of cooking, add the garlic (this cooks the garlic just enough to remove its raw taste).
2. Puree in a blender, in batches if necessary, until very smooth. Stir in the milk, cream or yogurt, and reheat gently; do not boil. Season to taste, and serve.

The possible combinations for this kind of soup border on the infinite. Here are some suggestions for different vegetables to simmer in the stock:
* Potato and onion. Use 1 cup each potato and onion (or leek). Omit the garlic, and garnish with parsley, dill or chives.
* Spinach. Start with 10 to 16 ounces of leaves (remove thick stems). Cook quickly, adding a clove of garlic if you like.
* Turnip and parsnip or turnip and potato. Cook with a small onion and 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme).
* Carrot. Nice with a pinch of cayenne pepper and a teaspoon or more of minced ginger, added, like the garlic, during the last minute of cooking.
* Celery or fennel. Cook 3 or 4 cloves of garlic along with the vegetables.

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