I've always loved broccoli, which is an excellent source of protein, calcium, iron, dietary fiber and many vitamins and minerals. It helps that it's easy to cook. Broccoli does well steamed, roasted, grilled or sauteed. Bottom line - broccoli is hearty and full-bodied. It can be the main actor in any meal. Which is why broccoli is the star of this substantial stick-to-your-ribs soup for fall. There's some Canadian bacon in it, adding flavor, but it plays only a supporting role. It delivers the same smoky taste as regular bacon without the ton of fat content and calories of regular bacon. And just as this soup boasts smokiness without a lot of bacon fat, it is thick and creamy without any butter, cream or flour. The trick? Pureeing the vegetables. Any soup with enough vegetables will be creamy when you puree it. And without a lot of cream or butter, the soup will not only be leaner, it also will taste that much more vividly of the vegetables with which it is made. The best tool to puree these vegetables is a blender. But if all you have on hand is a food processor or an immersion blender, don't worry. The finished soup won't be quite as silky smooth, but it'll still be delicious. This mostly vegetable soup is a food candidate for the main course at dinner. With some grilled or toasted country bread and a green salad on the side, I promise you will be plenty satisfied.


Smoky Cream of Broccoli Soup with Sharp Cheddar Servings: 4 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided 3/4 pound Canadian bacon, chopped 1 medium yellow onion, sliced (about 1 cup) 2 pounds fresh broccoli (4 cups small florets set aside, the rest, including the stalks, trimmed of tough skin and coarsely chopped) 1 small Yukon gold potato (about 6 ounces), scrubbed and thinly sliced 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth Kosher salt and ground black pepper 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste 2 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated Heat the oven to 450 F. In a large saucepan over medium, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the bacon and cook, stirring, for 6 to 8 minutes, or until slightly golden. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a bowl and set aside. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add another tablespoon of the oil and the onion to the pan, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened. Add the coarsely chopped broccoli (not the florets), potato and chicken broth. Bring the broth to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes, stirring every so often, or until the broccoli and potatoes are very tender. Meanwhile, on a rimmed baking sheet toss the florets with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil. Season with salt and pepper, then spread in an even layer. Roast in the top third of the oven for 5 minutes, or until lightly caramelized. When the vegetables in the soup are tender, transfer the soup to a blender and puree, in batches, until smooth. Be careful and only fill the blender a third full each time. Return the soup to the saucepan, along with the roasted broccoli florets and the Canadian bacon. Add the lemon juice, then season with salt and pepper. Add water, if necessary, to achieve the desired texture. Ladle the soup into 4 shallow soup bowls and top each portion with some of the cheddar. Nutrition information: 410 calories; 200 calories from fat (49 percent of total calories); 22 g fat (6 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 60 mg cholesterol; 25 g carbohydrate; 8 g fiber; 2 g sugar; 31 g protein; 1680 mg sodium.