Charles Siskin: TV Dinners

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 - by Charles Siskin
Broccoli Cream Soup
Broccoli Cream Soup
- photo by Charles Siskin

Friday nights are my favorite television viewing nights because of the series Blue Blood. That’s when this television family of current and former policemen, commissioners and lawyers get together to eat. Oh sure there is a story line but in the end everyone sits down to a hearty, what looks like, meat and three.

Tom Selleck is the police commissioner in, of all places, New York City. Based on the current color of Tom’s hair, which is the color of intense black from Benjamin Moore, the show could have been called “No Touch of Grey For Me”. He sits at one end of the dining room table in this quaint 50’s style house that looks to be located in Iowa with a  separate formal dining room. His dad sits at the other end dishing out cringe inducing bonhomies. I figure Great-Grandpa must be pushing 90 because Selleck would come in at 65 no matter how you do the hair color.

The rest of the table consists of the lawyer daughter and her teen age daughter who is a total knock off of Reese Witherspoon in Election. Then there is I-no-longer-sing- but-I-can-act with an over-the-top New Jersey accent, Donnie Wahlberg who plays a detective in desperate need of a shave.

Finally there is the young stud policeman who walks a beat but has a law degree probably from Yale or Harvard which isn’t too farfetched in this make believe police drama. He looks like a deer in the proverbial headlights because of the insipid dialogue he has to utter. He should get a restraining order from the court.  Oh well the residuals will be good. 

This is, I’m surmising, a later day “Beaver Clever” family done up in righteousness who basically likes to sit down to sort out the facts of life over a really hearty home cooked meal. This will be shocking news to most folks who grab their eats after the working mom, or dad, stops by the Pizza Hut to bring home the pepperoni, not the proverbial bacon.

If I had any say in how this series goes down, I’d make darn sure they put together a cook book once they have faded off into TV rerun land. Well actually there already is a cookbook; it is the 1950’s Betty Crocker Cook Book. This was before television made stars out of all those cooking mavens who sell their cookware and books at Target. I mean no one can be that happy dicing that much garlic and onions like Rachel Ray. Even a good dousing with fresh cut lemons won’t get the smell off your hands for hours after dining with old Tom and the gang.

Now don’t get me wrong, I grew up on Betty Crocker cooking with lots of butter, pure cream and great fried chicken dipped in buttermilk and egg and dredged in flour before being put down in a fry pan full of melted Crisco. Even worse was pulling off the crispy skin and eating, actually devouring, it on a warm biscuit. There was a whole lot of loving going into that heart clogging bit of food.

Nowadays I make a dynamite turkey meatloaf but not as tasty as the ones you make with ground beef and pork. The reason being there is no fat content in the turkey to flavor it up like the traditional one. Sure I add a whole egg but I use whole wheat panko crumbs instead of white bread to hold it together and go easy on the salt down to a low sodium tomato sauce to go over the top.

Over at Pep Boys a couple of days ago, while waiting the interminable wait to spend a serious amount of bucks for new rotors and brake pads, the television in the waiting room was tuned to a cooking channel. Grown men were watching cooking shows instead of demolition derbies where young people were being taught to make turkey meatloaf. Totally awesome I thought and applauded whoever tuned into the channel. I did admit that there were way too many ingredients in that small loaf of ground turkey. A small matter if you don’t mind kernels of corn tucked inside.

Now that the weather here on the Coast has turned down right chilly in the early morning sun light, which comes streaming in before 6 am due to the change in the time, I’ve begun to think about a bowl of soup for dinner. It is the perfect meal to warm me up after taking my little white dog, Madame, for a quick walk before the last light of day which comes shortly after 5 in the evening.

While I do like kale, however trendy it currently is, I still like my broccoli as well. Since there are only two of us I try to be prudent when purchasing a head of the green stuff but one goes on for several meals. I buy the florets when available but if I am going to make soup I go for the full Monty. Here again a batch of the soup will feed us for several meals so I always freeze a portion or two for later.

The important thing when buying any fresh veggies, as you already know, is to be sure that the tops of the broccoli have not started to turn brown. Because I am an early riser and hit the gym before 6 am, I arrive at the supermarket shortly after their 7 am opening when the trucks have been unloaded and the new produce is just hitting the shelves.

Pumped and ready I get to the kitchen and blanch that perfect head of broccoli and set it aside before heading off to the office. Later I will turn it into a soup saving the stems for a salad or to snack on during the day at work.

Maybe on my next trip to Pep Boys they’ll be doing something about Quinoa? Better yet the Blue Bloods will be sitting down to a nice turkey loaf dinner next time I tune in.

Broccoli Soup


1 head broccoli blanched and the florets separated from the stems

Set stems aside for another use

1 cup of diced onions

¼  cup real butter or olive oil

2 tablespoons ground fresh nutmeg

1 to 2 teaspoons sea salt (optional)

1 to 2 teaspoons of Cayenne depending on how big a kick you want (my bride likes..none!)

4 cups low sodium chicken broth

2 cups non-fat half and half cream

Garnish options

½ cup diced sweet red pepper, non-fat sour cream, low fat grated cheddar cheese


Melt butter in sauce pan deep enough to handle the liquid. Add onions and cook over low heat until translucent along with the nutmeg and Cayenne

Put broccoli into food processor and add onion mixture. Turn on and add enough chicken broth to puree the mixture.

Return to pot and add rest of broth. Cook over low heat at a simmer for 15 minutes and taste.

Add sea salt sparingly as it is much more potent than regular salt

Continue to cook for another few minutes or until at least a fourth or a third of the liquid has been absorbed

Off the stove let cool and refrigerate until ready to serve then return to heat and add half and half

Bring mixture to a bubble and then serve with optional garnishes

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