- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Although I have loved every minute of this past month — when I undertook a marathon of holiday cooking and devoted hours to decorating the tree and arranging flowers for the dining room table — I am ready to slow down.

I don’t even want to look at a recipe that takes more than 30 minutes to make. As for entertaining, the simpler the better is my mantra for the next few weeks.

I am going to put my new credo to work this coming weekend. Even after the social whirl of the past days, my spouse, quite the extrovert, is anxious to invite friends to join us for a movie and a light supper afterward at our house.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that homemade soup and a quickly assembled salad should be on the menu. Nothing could be easier.

I am crazy about the delicious taste of the broccoli soup with curried creme fraiche that I am planning to serve. It is a snap to assemble, takes just 15 minutes to simmer atop the stove, and is light yet totally satisfying.

Broccoli florets (bought packaged to save time) and chopped leeks are sauteed in olive oil, simmered in chicken stock along with a little diced potato, then pureed.

A hint of cayenne pepper adds a slight accent of heat, but it is the creme fraiche scented with a small amount of curry powder that is the secret to this soup’s vibrant flavor. The cream is swirled into the pureed mixture and also used as a garnish.

A salad of mixed greens tossed in lemon juice and olive oil, and a warm baguette or a crusty loaf of sourdough bread are all that are needed as sides. A round of Camembert or a wedge of Roquefort offered with sliced pears will make a fine finale.

Broccoli soup with curried creme fraiche

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups chopped leeks (white and light green parts only)

1 russet potato (about 8 ounces), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 pound broccoli florets (see note)

6 cups chicken stock

Kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2/3 cup creme fraiche

1 teaspoon curry powder

1½ tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley for garnish

In a large heavy pot (with a lid), heat the oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and saute until softened, about 4 minutes.

Add the potato and broccoli florets and saute, stirring, 1 minute more.

Add the chicken stock, 1 teaspoon salt, and cayenne.

Bring to a simmer, reduce heat, cover and cook at a simmer until the potatoes and broccoli are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Puree the soup in a food processor, blender or food mill, and return the soup to the pot. Or use an immersion blender to puree the soup in the pot.

Mix together creme fraiche and curry powder. Whisk half of the mixture into the soup until well-blended. Taste and season with more salt if needed. (The soup can be prepared one day ahead. Cool, cover and refrigerate, then reheat over medium heat, stirring occasionally.)

To serve, ladle soup into soup bowls and garnish with a dollop of the remaining creme fraiche and some chopped parsley.

Makes 4 generous servings, or 5 to 6 with smaller portions.

Note: Using broccoli florets is a big time saver; they are available packaged in most supermarkets in the produce section.

Creme fraiche is available in the dairy section of many supermarkets.

Betty Rosbottom is a cooking school director and author of “Big Book of Backyard Cooking” (Chronicle Books).


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