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Each week this summer, I’ve made a vegetable-based soup to have for lunches or to round out a salad dinner that uses up leftovers. In order to increase my INSTANT POT (IP) skills and to see how many of my soup book’s recipes transfer well to this medium, I’ve mostly made them in the IP or multicooker-the real name for the electric pressure cooker that’s also a sauté pot and a slow cooker. Like folks call all tissue “Kleenex,” we tend to call most multi cookers “Instant Pots.” (Note: I like my regular slow cooker much better than the IP version.) To get food cooked in a flash is the main idea with IP recipes and while I’m rarely in a hurry (in fact, it’s just the opposite in my kitchen), I get the idea. In fact, I do enjoy throwing things in a pot, turning it on, and then being able to disappear to the treadmill or a good book. Magic! Another excellent reason to cook soup this way is there’s much less heat in the kitchen with the stove off.

While I do clean out the vegetable bin to make a catch-as-catch-can IP soup occasionally, that’s not the case with this light, energizing recipe featuring clean and bright flavors.  Broccoli and cauliflower are luscious together in most any fashion, but here they star and shine along with the pinning undercurrents of leeks and fennel and are not muddied about by a load of things like carrots, onions, garlic, and celery. Supporting players, so important to soup, are fresh dill and parsley, but the grace note is surely the chive garnish. In fact, if you had to use dried dill and maybe even skip the parsley (you could use celery leaves in a pinch or a few shredded spinach leaves in total desperation), the soup would still eat just as well as long as you had the chives!  Of course, I’m a bit dramatic here; the soup is surely okay without them if you haven’t any, but it’s simply and truly on another level entirely with the chives.

CHIVE ON! If you’re lucky enough to have a south window or something approximating one, chives can be a year-round herb at your house. Cooking with fresh herbs sometimes doesn’t just make “all the difference in the world,” it’s maybe one of the few easy, but major changes an aspiring cook can make to ramp up her game. Come summer, fresh herbs are happy in pots on your porch, in your yard, or on your balcony. Wintertime we’re reduced to paying through the nose at the grocery unless we turn ourselves into minor gardeners, which many cooks do.  If you keep a few herbs in individual pots all summer, those can be trimmed and brought in. Otherwise, items like sage or chives, for instance–at least in cold climates– can be dug out of the ground before a hard frost, and transferred to a pot to spend the cold months indoors. Come spring, the plants go back into the ground if you like. You southerners probably harvest woody herbs (thyme, rosemary, etc.) throughout the year and, even here in Colorado, mine are available through September and maybe even part of October.  Apartment cooks may be year-round window gardeners if they rent an apartment with the right windows.

below:  one of my near-to-the-kitchen garden pots in the summer with a variety of herbs (divided and replanted into smaller pots and brought indoors in the fall) 

This doesn’t mean I don’t buy fresh herbs throughout the winter; I do–particularly basil.  But my window garden is a treasure, a boon, a delight, and does save me a few pennies.  Mostly, there’s nothing like being able to take two steps from the kitchen and snip off a little rosemary or sage for my pork chops. Or have fresh thyme for beef burgundy or the Thanksgiving turkey stuffing. Or almost any of them for salad and vinaigrette. I can’t imagine life without fresh herbs. Any house I buy has to have room for an herb garden, both indoors and out!

above: for an easy sauce for chops, I heated butter seasoned with salt, pepper, and tiny (julienne) slices of sage until browned and spooned it onto chops I had just browned in that sauté pan and transferred to a baking sheet for a low-oven finishing rest. With the chops, I served grilled portobello mushroom slices along with lemon and shallot spinach topped with toasted pine nuts.

As the cold weather vegetables begin to come on, grab some of that broccoli and cauliflower to make a refreshing soup that’s just as inviting cold straight out of the fridge as it is hot.  And isn’t it the best additional blessing to get your veggies in such an easy, delicious way? Try this:

INSTANT POT: Cream of Broccoli-Cauliflower Soup with Dill and Chives

Makes a little more than 2 quarts of soup and is just as good chilled as hot.  While this soup is called “cream” of Broccoli-Cauliflower, it needn’t have cream at all if you want to skip it. See DIFFERENT LOOKS FOR DIFFERENT COOKS below for variations.

4-5 generous servings or 6-8 first course servings

  • 3 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil
  • Large fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced
  • 2 large leeks, trimmed and sliced (white and light green parts only)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh dill weed
  • 2 1/2 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 1/2 cups cauliflower florets
  • Handful of fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or water
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream–added after cooking or for drizzled garnish, optional
  • Minced fresh chives for garnish

Sauté (medium) fennel and leeks for 5 minutes, stirring; season with salt/pepper. Add broccoli, cauliflower; heat through. Pour in wine.  Let cook 1 minute, stirring. Pour in broth. Set to pressure cook 7 minutes. Use quick release. Blend thoroughly for 2 minutes or more until to desired consistency using immersion blender. Can also process in batches carefully in food processor or blender. Stir in cream or add at table, if using. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot or let cool, chill for at least three hours, taste for seasonings again, and serve cold garnished with chives.

DIFFERENT LOOKS FOR DIFFERENT COOKS:

  • A southern cook might use buttermilk in place of heavy cream.
  • A healthy or slimming cook might spoon up a dollop of plain yogurt in place of heavy cream for a little added protein.
  • A vegetarian cook would sub vegetable broth for chicken broth.
  • A vegan cook might replace the chicken broth with vegetable, too, but would also skip the dairy totally—or use a nut or coconut milk, and maybe sprinkle a few toasted almond slices or freshly-made croutons over the top along with the chives.

{printable recipe}


WINE:  Sauvignon Blanc or Californian Fumé Blanc


Driving down our street the other day, we nearly ran into the neighborhood boys hanging out. Our city has a difficult excess of deer and there are current plans to cull a herd that’s overgrown available food supplies and has become a hazard to driving.

While they eat my vegetables (aargh!!) and trample my herbs and flowers, I enjoy them immensely and will not look forward to this next step where about 200 does will be eliminated before mating season begins this fall. Sad facts of city living.

Cook some soup,

Alyce