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Creamy Broccoli Soup With Red Pepper Creme

For the Creamy Broccoli Soup:
2 Tbsp. canola oil
2 onions, chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped
3 lbs. broccoli (approximately 3 heads), stems trimmed and coarsely chopped and florets cut into bite-size pieces
8 cups vegetable stock or water
1 tsp. sea salt, plus more for seasoning
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
3 packed cups fresh spinach leaves

• Heat the oil in a heavy stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and celery and sauté for 5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add the broccoli stems and all but 4 cups of the broccoli florets. Sauté until crisp-tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the stock, salt, and black pepper. Cover and simmer over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are very tender. Stir in the spinach.
• Using a hand-held immersion blender, purée until smooth. Alternately, working in batches, purée in a regular blender until smooth.
• Add the reserved broccoli florets. Return to a simmer in the stockpot over medium-high heat. Simmer for 8 minutes, or until the broccoli florets are crisp-tender. Season with more salt and black pepper, if desired.

For the Red Pepper Crème:
1 red bell pepper
1/4 cup raw cashews
2 Tbsp. plain soy milk
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. sea salt

• Char the bell pepper over a gas flame for 5 minutes, turning occasionally, or until blackened on all sides. Enclose in a plastic bag and set aside until cool enough to handle, then peel and seed.
• Combine the roasted pepper, cashews, soy milk, lemon juice, and salt in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy.*

To Assemble:
• Ladle the soup into bowls. Drizzle the red pepper crème decoratively on top and serve. The soup will keep for 2 days, covered and refrigerated. Bring the soup to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, before serving.

*Note: The crème will keep for 1 day, covered and refrigerated. Stir the crème before using.

Makes 8 to 10 servings

Reprinted with permission from The Real Food Daily Cookbook: Really Fresh, Really Good, Really Vegetarian by Ann Gentry.