Tuesday Dinner: Cream of Broccoli

10 December 2019

Cream of Broccoli • Mixed Greens with Radishes & Oranges • Levain Rolls • Warm Persimmon Pudding with Whipped Cream

We’ve got what I think is a perfect mid-holiday relaxed dinner tonight. I don’t know about you, but I find myself eating way too much sugar (hello cookies!) and deliciously salty meat products at this time of year. It starts with Thanksgiving and then doesn’t stop until after my birthday. I like the indulgence but I really really need to balance it out with a serious dose of vegetables. Please.

Today’s cream of broccoli soup goes a little way toward solving that problem, with twenty pounds of broccoli turned into six gallons of soup. I started by making a soup base of onions, garlic, potatoes, and vegetable broth, and let it simmer away while I prepped a ginormous amount of broccoli. The broccoli cooks very quickly in the soup, so it retains its green color. That creamy richness doesn’t come from dairy—my dad says I shouldn’t call it “cream of broccoli” since there’s no cream in it—but from cashews instead. Soaked and blended in the Vitamix, they’re just as creamy as real cream. (Not that I’m totally anti-dairy; this soup is also delicious with some cheddar stirred in.)

At the farmer’s market, Tomatero’s booth is crazy crowded all the time. My usual strategy is to try very hard to buy items that are priced by the each or the bunch or the basket, and to avoid buying produce that’s priced by the pound; that way, I can hand exact change to someone rather than waiting in line to have my purchases weighed. But I couldn’t resist the watermelon radishes that Adriana was selling this weekend. I mean really, have you seen a more gorgeous vegetable? They’re so unassuming on the outside—you’d think they were turnips±but then on the inside that shocking pink. Beautiful! They were totally worth standing in line for. They’re in the salad today, with a mustard vinaigrette and some more oranges. It’s full-on citrus season, my friends!

It’s also persimmon season. Poppy’s been asking and asking for persimmon pudding, and I’m happy to finally be able to make it. I’ve been eyeing all the persimmon trees around the valley, like I do every year; it hurts me to see the fruit dropping on the ground and going to waste, but it always ends up being easier to buy a box from Tim.

I put Fuyu persimmons (the flatter variety that you can eat when they’re still firm and slightly crunchy) in the salad a few weeks ago; I used Hachiyas for today’s dessert. Hachiyas you have to eat when they’re all the way ripe, and their insides are soft and jelly-like. When my sister Kelly was living in Italy, she learned to eat “kaki” (their Italian name) by cutting off the top stem end and scooping the insides out of the skin with a spoon. If you don’t usually eat Hachiyas, try them that way, or try scooping the delicious middles on top of a bowl of plain yogurt or into a blender for a smoothie.

Persimmon pudding is a cross between a custard and a cake. The persimmon flesh is puréed, then mixed with lots of eggs and milk, and smaller amounts of sugar and flour, with a touch of butter, cinnamon, and honey. The batter is very liquid, but thickens a bit as it rests; you fold in a generous amount of toasted walnuts just before baking. The batter is very liquid, and the dessert bakes for a very long time; up to three hours for an 8-inch cake, an hour or so for these little ones. (Compare that to twenty minutes for a regular individual-sized cake.) The result after all that time in the oven, besides a house that smells like a holiday bakery, is a dark brown, glossy, dessert that is somewhat crusty on the exterior, but soft and fragrant on the inside.

Eat it while it’s warm—microwaved or warmed in the oven—with some sweetened whipped cream on top. Have a wonderful holiday break, and I’ll see you again on January 7th.

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