Sombre Days and Broccoli Potage

Three years ago, today, my mom saw her last sunrise. My brother was talking to her on the phone while she was in the hospital two time zones away. She drifted away moments after talking to him. I find this day difficult no matter how much I try to find a way to deal with the loss. Those who say it gets easier, I’m not even sure what to say. It doesn’t. A moment in time hits you in a way that isn’t rational. A place has extra special meaning.

In the weeks that passed after my mom’s passing three years ago, I had a trip planned to see her. I still went, but instead of a pleasure trip to enjoy the Ottawa/Hull region with my mom, it was time spent with her partner. Consoling the inconsolable, we shared stories, pictures, emotions. Throat-constricting stretches of silence interspersed with sobs.

My mom was the one, like me, who did the bulk of the cooking at home. It left her partner with another void besides her kindness she shared through her life. He didn’t cook very much and missed the meals she shared. Dishes that I also had growing up or dishes from Quebec that he never learned from his own family, but I knew how to do, so I spent some of that time with him, showing him how to cook many of his favourite dishes. One of them was a Broccoli Potage. A simple creamy soup with potato, milk and whatever vegetable you want to include, in this case broccoli.

Broccoli Potage

1 tsp cold pressed canola oil

2 medium onions, peeled and chopped

3-4 stalks celery, chopped

4 cups broccoli florets, plus their accompanying stalks, chopped (measure the 4 cups of florets only, the stalks are additional)

2 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock if vegetarian)

4 cups milk (if you don’t use cow’s milk, don’t substitute with almond/soy/rice milk, etc. It will split if heated and make a mess. Just use more vegetable stock or water)

3 or 4 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped (about 3 cups total)

1-1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup cream cheese, to garnish, optional

   In a large pot over medium heat, add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions, celery and broccoli stalks. Sauté for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, to soften. Add the chicken stock, milk, broccoli florets, potatoes and salt. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, cover with a lid and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the potatoes are very soft. Purée with a hand blender (or in batches in a blender/food processor) until smooth. Serve in a bowl with a spoon of cream cheese, if using. Serves 4-6. It also freezes well, so it makes a quick accompaniment to dinner on a whim.

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