Merrill Stubbs and Amanda Hesser—writers, editors, and testers of all things gastronomic—were dissatisfied with the online recipe world. All available sites, they felt, were rigidly didactic; searching for recipes was a lonely, solitary experience. So after spending five years testing and editing the cornucopia of recipes that became The Essential New York Times Cookbook, these two friends decided to fill the Internet void with an online food community called Food52. Now in its third year, Food52 provides recipe instructions for gourmands of all grades; on it, users can create and test their own favorites for all to see. It also provides a creative way to remake some of those old recipes you’ve had lying around the kitchen. We asked Stubbs to recreate one of her favorite classics:
My mother has a line she pulls out whenever she eats something she likes and gets excited about trying to recreate it at home: “Okay, it’s time to diagnose and reproduce!”
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Over the years, I have diagnosed and reproduced countless dishes myself—everything from salads to crostini to lobster pasta. Recently, I found myself one degree of separation further from the original dish than usual. On a walk through our neighborhood, I ducked into a coffee shop to grab a cappuccino and saw this scrawled on a small chalkboard: “Soup of the Day: Broccoli, Lemon and Parmesan.”
Damn, I thought. That sounds delicious. I didn’t have time to taste it (they said they needed to reheat the soup, and I had an impatient 8-month-old and husband waiting for me outside), but that didn’t stop me from making my own version at home that night.
Not content to appropriate just the entire concept for the soup, I decided to make the base for the soup by modifying this recipe for slow-cooked broccoli with garlic and anchovies. (Incidentally, this is my new go-to technique for pretty much all vegetables, as it’s great for babies just learning to eat solid food.) I left out the anchovies and chilis because I didn’t have them on hand. Once the broccoli was soft and velvety, I added some chicken stock and simmered the soup for barely five minutes. I pureed half the liquid, keeping the rest chunky, and stirred in generous handfuls of grated Parmesan and enough lemon juice so that you could really taste it.
I’ve made this soup several times now, and it never fails to please. Try adding a couple of anchovies and chilis if you like — they add some pizzazz. And don’t forget hunks of crusty bread to sop up the last swirls of soup.
Broccoli Soup with Parmesan and Lemon
Serves 4 to 6
- 2 pounds broccoli, trimmed and cut into florets
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 fat cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 4 cups homemade or low sodium chicken stock
- 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
- 1 lemon
- Crusty bread for serving
Bring a large, heavy pot of water to a boil. Add the broccoli and boil for five minutes. Drain the broccoli well and set aside.
Add the olive oil and garlic to the pot over medium heat. After a minute or two, when the garlic starts to soften and turn golden, add the broccoli, season with salt and pepper, and stir well.
Cover the pot, turn the heat down as low as it will go, and cook for about an hour, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli is soft enough that it yields when you press it with the back of a wooden spoon (it may brown a little during this process — this is a good thing).
Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Simmer the soup for 5 minutes.
Carefully puree half the soup in a blender or food processor, using a kitchen towel to hold the lid on tight. Stir the puree back into the pot. Stir in the Parmesan and lemon juice to taste. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve hot with plenty of crusty bread.