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Entries in cauliflower (2)

Wednesday
May202009

Stupidly Easy Soup

Cream of Cauliflower Soup © 2009 Cameron Blazer
The weather has been weird here for the last week. May in South Carolina is usually reliably hot. But we've had days of blustery rain and cold nights. As if I needed an excuse to indulge in my favorite food group: soup.

Oh how I do love soup! Chunky chowders, cold gazpachos, creamy bisques--they're like the little black dress of foodstuffs--a little accessorizing and you have a whole meal.

My CSA has a bumper crop of cauliflower right now, and though it's apparently a spring crop, cauliflower just feels warm and autumnal to me, so it fit this weird fall-like weather perfectly. If you think you don't like cauliflower, I hope you'll give it another look--I don't know anyone who has given roasted cauliflower or cauliflower soup a fair chance who has not been completely won over by its charms.

Now, I must confess I am having to reconstruct this recipe in an odd way--this cauliflower soup began its life as cauliflower puree that accompanied our roast chicken last week. We had tons left over (the kiddo was not fooled that these were not mashed potatoes), so after a particularly bone-chilling May day, I turned those leftovers into a smooth, creamy soup that far exceeded its humble beginnings. Still, I am pretty sure I've got the proportions right--it's pretty much all cauliflower all the time. Some soup theorists may scoff, as my version includes no onion, carrots, or celery. Well, I vote for practice over theory every day--you can surely add those, but I just love the unadulterated nutty flavor of the cauliflower.

Creamy Cauliflower Soup (serves 4)

1 medium head (or 1 lb frozen) cauliflower, cut into 1-inch pieces

4 T butter (live a little!)

1/4 c cream or half-and-half (live a little more!)

2 oz goat cheese

3 c water (more or less--let your texture preference be your guide)

salt and pepper

optional: truffle salt / bacon and basil / olive oil / oven-dried tomatoes / creme fraiche

  1. Bring a pot of well-salted water to boil. Add cauliflower and cook until just tender (the cauliflower should turn translucent all the way through--if it's still bright white, let it cook a bit longer).
  2. Drain the cauliflower, reserving 2 cups of the cooking water.
  3. Puree the cauliflower (using a stick blender or in batches in a stand blender), cream, and goat cheese with enough cooking water to result in a completely smooth puree.
  4. Return the puree to the pot over medium heat. Thin, as necessary, with the reserved cooking water.

See? Stupidly easy!

The first night I made this, I served it with a sprinkle of truffle salt*--the earthy richness of the truffles ratcheted up the cozy factor on this soup to the perfect level. When we ate the soup tonight, the dreary sky had lifted and the temperatures were creeping back toward normal, so the combination of bacon and basil enriched and brightened it perfectly.

*Ok, I know. At about $20 for a teeny-tiny jar of salt, truffle salt is just about too cute by half. But I've had the same jar for over a year, and it's more than 3/4 full. So, I certainly wouldn't buy it just for this soup, but I wasn't sorry I had it lying around, either. If you have truffle oil lying around, you could use that, too, but I have rarely tasted a truffle oil that didn't taste like transmission fluid, so I don't buy the stuff any more. Whatever works, eh?

Tuesday
Nov252008

Get it on the table #2: Roasted Cauliflower

First, have I mentioned my abiding love for frozen foods? And frozen vegetables, in particular? Well, feel the love.

And while I cannot function without frozen spinach, and I'm lost without frozen rice, I'm pretty sure that the greatest frozen vegetable of all time is cauliflower. Yep, cauliflower. If you do not like cauliflower, it is because some Nurse Ratchet type steamed it and fed it to you an a partitioned, green melamine plate. Try it again my way, will you? When you roast cauliflower, something happens that turns this weird, spongey, cabbagey brainshape into divine vegetable bacon. Seriously, it gets all brown with crispy bits and sweet and caramel-y, and just flat-out awesome.

Roasted Cauliflower

1 bag cauliflower
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400°. (I am often too lazy/hurried to wait for the oven to get fully up to temp, but it is better this way.)

In a bowl, toss the cauliflower and the olive oil with salt and pepper to taste. Let sit about 15 minutes, if you can stand it. The salt will draw out some of the water and help bring the sugars to the surface, which means better browning. (Aside from the deliciousness factor, there may be a nutritional benefit: apparently, when cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables are cut, they release healthy chemicals called isothiacyanates; the chemicals continue to develop until the vegetables are cooked.)

Spread the cauliflower out on a rimmed baking sheet--nonstick if you've got it.*

Roast the cauliflower for 25-40 minutes, turning very occasionally. This is one of those foods that benefits from a degree of benign neglect: if you turn them constantly, your oven will lose heat and you will never get the cauliflower caramelized. Still, you want to make sure any smaller pieces aren't over-roasting and that you aren't getting any too-dark spots.

This cauliflower makes a great alternative to mashed or roasted potatoes; it's great pureed with milk/broth for a hearty winter soup; you can add it to your favorite pasta dish; you can go Sicilian and serve it at room temp with chili flake, capers, and olives; you can make a bunch ahead and throw it onto a store bought cheese pizza (some slices of chicken sausage wouldn't hurt, either--I'm just sayin'). This may be the world's most underappreciated vegetable. But not if I can help it.

*Have you tried the Williams-Sonoma Goldtouch nonstick cookware? It ain't cheap, but Sweet Fancy Moses it sure works well. I am not affiliated with Williams-Sonoma in any way (though W-S, if you're reading, I'm happy to become a product tester!)--this is just one hell of a cracker jack product. I have three of the jelly-roll style pans (one large, two small) so that I can roast to my heart's delight. I've had my eye on the muffin tins for a while, but given the paucity of muffin baking going on at my house, I have thusfar exercised restraint. Admirable, yes?