Thursday, March 1, 2007

We Love Cauliflower: A Helluva Soup



I have to admit a strange brain tick: I collect cauliflower recipes. I think this started at a time when I had a client who was beginning the South Beach diet and I noticed that people--some people, anyway--were substituting non-caloric cauliflower for starchy potatoes. Suddenly I was seeing cauliflower recipes everywhere, and I began to collect them and stash them away in a manila folder for who-knew-what future purpose. Because up to that point, the only cauliflower I was really familiar with was the kind my mother boiled, then drenched with one of those Hollandaise sauces made out of a foil packet. I was desperate to know every other possible way to prepare cauliflower. This week I needed to make a soup, so I thought it was high time I look into my cauliflower file and make a cauliflower soup before spring arrives and we move on to fava beans or something.

Cauliflower to me is the Cinderella of the brassica family. It doesn't get noticed much. Typically it is consigned to a corner of the steam table, mixed with some bland, overcooked carrots. But cauliflower has an almost ethereal flavor, hardly brassica at all, and the most yielding texture. This is a vegetable made for small children, a fairytale brassica, but it also dresses up well for adult tastes and without much bother. I like to toss it with extra virgin olive oil, salt and lots of curry powder, then roast it in a 450-degree oven to get an almost crusty brown on it. It also transforms completely in this soup preparation with potatoes, milk and cream. It is so delicious, I would eat it all the time, were it not for the potatoes, milk and cream. But see how easy it is: there's hardly any work at all. You just need to make absolutely sure when cooking the soup that the milk doesn't boil and separate. The soup should barely simmer until the vegetables are cooked through. Don't be surprised if this takes a half hour or 45 minutes. Just poke the cauliflower with a trussing skewer. It should slide through easily.

1 head cauliflower, broken into florets

2 medium boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into thick slices

1 quart milk

1 cup heavy cream

salt and white pepper to taste

Place cauliflower, potatoes and milk in a heavy pot or Dutch oven. Over medium heat, bring soup just barely to a simmer, then reduce heat to lowest setting, cover and cook without boiling until the vegetables are perfectly tender. (If using an electric range, you might want to move the pot to one of your smaller burners so it doesn't overheat. For a gas range, a heat deflector might be called for.)

When vegetables are done, run the soup through a blender or food processor in batches until very smooth. Return soup to pot. Stir in heavy cream. Season with salt and white pepper. Serve hot with buttery croutons.

When I made this two days ago, I think I had somewhat more than the called-for potatoes. It was a thick but extravagantly velvety soup. My wife swooned over it, and I can't remember the last time she swooned.

14 comments:

Kevin said...

Ed,
One of my client's favorite side dishes is roasted cauliflower with lemon juice and garlic -- when they first try it they're always amazed that cauliflower can be so good.

Ed Bruske said...

Certainly less caloric than this soup. Is there a recipe, Kevin, or a shorthand suggestion for prep?

WashingtonGardener said...

Congrats on your WashPost Food section link! At a time in my life (running my own magazine) when I get ticked when it takes more than 2 minutes to microwave a meal, I admire your mission and resolve.

Ed Bruske said...

Really? I had no idea. I'll have to go check the food section. Thanks so much for the intel, and for visiting my blog...

Christa said...

I found my way here as a result of the WashPost Food section article as well. This is a great blog you have here. I am working on my own vegetable garden here in D.C., too. Check out my adventures in the community garden, at Calendula & Concrete

Ed Bruske said...

Thanks so much for visiting, Christa. Feedback is always appreciated. I left a longer message on your site...

Kevin said...

Ed,
Heat the oven to 400.

Cut the cailiflower into florets and place in a bowl. Finely mince 3 or 4 cloves of garlic. Drizzle generously with olive oil and squeeze the juice of a lemon onto the mixture. Cover bowl with a plate and shake to mix thoroughly. Roast for 15 - 20 minutes until cauliflower begins to brown and is tender.

Ed Bruske said...

Thanks, Kevin. I'll make this for one of my clients this week. It's starting to feel more like Spring...

Robert said...

My wife and I tried the cauliflower soup last night. It was pretty good, but no one swooned. We agreed leek and potato soup is the swoon-maker. Tomorrow night I'll use the other half of the cauliflower for one of those roasted-C dishes, yours or Kevin's. I've bookmarked your site (since the Post article) and will follow it. Robert in Manassas

Ed Bruske said...

Thanks for visiting, Robert. Maybe you have to be a cauliflower lover. I like leeks as well.

peter hoh said...

I wandered over from Garden Rant.

The DVD of Bend It Like Beckham includes a bonus feature that you'll enjoy. The director cooks alu gobi, a potato and cauliflower curry that is mentioned in the movie. While she cooks, her mother and aunty chime in with advice and criticism as only mothers and aunties can.

Ed Bruske said...

Thanks, Peter. I think I would like to try that. It's already on DVD? Didn't do well at the box office? Is the recipe on the DVD?

peter hoh said...

Actually, the movie did quite well at the box office. The recipe is easy enough to follow from watching it. When I cook Indian, I take the shortcut of using ready-made curry paste.

I prefer Patak's curry paste. I've found that my family likes it best when I use about a tablespoon of mild and a teaspoon of hot.

To get a creamy curry, like the kind you get at an Inidan restaurant, add some cream or coconut milk at the end.

Ed Bruske said...

Thanks for the intl, Peter. Now I am determined to make that soup. I think we neglect Indian cuisine for too much. We need to get in the habit of making it more...