As the Northeast braces for terrible, horrible, no-good, “frozen tundra” weather, I feel a little guilty to be enjoying the unusually warm and dry weather we are having on the Other Coast. I did spend four years in -3o degree F temperatures, however, so I am not exactly one to run away from the cold. In fact, cold weather is the best running weather, as far as I’m concerned.
One of the best things about coming in from the cold is the enveloping warmth that greets you when you escape the outside, and finally shed all of your layers. Even better is a bowl of soup to warm you up from the inside out. Perhaps it is the memory of my mother’s comforting soups, some of them enviably simple in their composition, that makes me gravitate towards making soup now when I’m in the mood for comfort food.
I’ve moved beyond the simple broth-based soups I grew up with to heartier soups inspired by winter vegetables and other produce I’ve seen in the market, although my preference is still towards lighter soups. The following recipe for Creamy Cauliflower Soup, adapted only slightly from America’s Test Kitchen (The Best of 2015 issue), is my idea of a perfectly balanced soup – not too heavy, delicately flavored, and nourishing. Simmering the cauliflower for different lengths of time adds complexity to the flavors, and the lower insoluble fiber content of cauliflower lends itself well to silkier, creamier soups without added cream.
Creamy Cauliflower Soup (slightly modified from America’s Test Kitchen)
1 head cauliflower (2 lbs)
1.5 tbl butter, divided use
4 tbl olive oil, divided use
1 leek, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced thin, and washed thoroughly
1 small onion, halved and sliced thin
salt and pepper
4.5-5 cups water
1/2 tsp sherry vinegar
3 tbl minced fresh chives
- Pull off outer leaves of cauliflower and trim stem. Using paring knife, cut around core to remove; slice core thin and reserve Cut heaping 1 cup of 1/2 inch florets from head of cauliflower; set aside. Cut remaining cauliflower crosswise into 1/2 inch thick slices.
- Melt 1 tbl butter with 2 tbl olive oil in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add leek, onion, and 1.5 tsp salt; cook, stirring frequently, until leek and onion are softened but not browned, about 7 minutes.
- Increase heat to medium high. Add 4.5 cups water, sliced core, and half of sliced cauliflower and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Add remaining sliced cauliflower, return to simmer, and continue to cook until cauliflower is tender and crumbles easily, about 15-20 minutes longer.
- While soup simmers, melt remaining 1/2 tbl butter in 2 tbl of olive oil in 8 inch skillet over medium heat. Add reserved florets and cook, stirring frequently, until florets are golden brown and slightly caramelized. Use slotted spoon to transfer the florets to small bowl, toss w/ vinegar, and season w/ salt to taste.
- Process soup in blender until smooth, about 45 seconds. Rinse out saucepan. Return pureed soup to saucepan and return to simmer over medium heat, adjusting consistently w/ remaining water as needed (soup should have thick, velvety texture but should be thin enough to settle with flat surface after being stirred) and seasoning with salt to taste. Serve, garnishing individual bowls with browned florets, drizzle of olive oil, and chives and season with pepper to taste.