Cauliflower seems to be a fairly controversial vegetable in the world of produce. Some people love it while others hate it. I am personally on the “love it” side of the fence. But I’m usually something of a “veggie advocate,” insisting that if someone doesn’t like a particular vegetable, it must be because they haven’t yet experienced the full potential of it. Take my dad, for example. For years, he thought he hated eggplant. I believe he didn’t like the spongy texture of those giant aubergines. That was until he tried a well-prepared (and significantly less spongy) Japanese eggplant. Now he loves the stuff and I’ve actually heard him make special eggplant requests. Now that he has experienced eggplant to its full potential, he has a new appreciation for it.
Anyway…all that to say that, if you don’t think you like cauliflower, maybe you do and you just don’t know if yet. And I mean really, how can it taste bad when it’s cooked into a smooth soup with a little cream, broth and nutmeg? You know you want some.
1 head cauliflower
3-4 small potatoes
2 cloves garlic (minced)
2 tsp. olive oil
4 cups broth (vegetable or chicken)
2 cups water
2 Tbsp. cream
salt and pepper to taste
2 pinches of nutmeg
thyme springs (optional)
- Prepare the head of cauliflower by cutting the florets off the base and rinsing them in cold water. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1-inch cubes.
- Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottom soup pot. Add the minced garlic and saute for about a minute. Add in the potatoes, and enough broth to cover the bottom of the pot (to keep the potatoes from sticking). After 2 minutes, add the rest of the broth and bring to a boil. Simmer the potatoes for 5 minutes.
- Add the cauliflower florets and water and bring the soup back to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until the cauliflower and potatoes are very tender. At this point, remove the pot from heat.
- Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until it is very smooth. If you do not have access to an immersion blender, you can use a regular blender or food processor. Just make sure to work in small batches of soup (or else you might end up with a mess on your hands). Here are some pictures of the soup progression using an immersion blender.
5. Allow the mixture to cool for 10-15 minutes. Add the cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Heat the soup back up just before serving. Garnish with thyme sprigs if desired.
A little while back, we received a nice-looking Kabocha squash in our CSA box. If you’ve never had one of these hardy winter squashes before, you’re missing out! They look like a green, kind of ugly pumpkin on the outside. But when you cut it open, you get a smooth orange flesh that’s delicious when roasted, steamed, or cut into cubes and boiled. You can find them at most farmer’s markets or natural grocery stores during the late fall and winter seasons. My preferred preparation method is to cut the squash in half, place it open side down on a cookie sheet and bake it at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes. Once the kabocha is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh with a spoon. You should get something like this:
I usually like to make soups with kabochas, because they have such a smooth flesh. Once roasted, the squash blends down to a bisque-like consistency, without the extra calories from heavy cream. With this particular soup, I decided to try something different- hence the beer component. My official taste tester called it, “the best kabocha squash soup I’ve ever had,” so I guess you could call that a “hit.”
1 medium-sized kabocha squash
4 cups chicken broth (can substitute with veggie broth)
1/2 cup beer
1 tsp. ground cumin
leaves from 5-6 sprigs fresh thyme
salt and white pepper to taste
a few dollops of fromage blanc (can substitute with greek yogurt or sour cream)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, or a silicone mat. Cut the kabocha squash in half, scoop out seeds, and place (open-side down) on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the squash can easily be pierced by the tip of a knife. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes.
- Scoop out flesh from squash into a soup pot. Cover the squash with the chicken broth and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes. Blend the squash mixture with a hand blender until it is very smooth. If you don’t have a hand blender, use a food processor or regular blender, working in batches.
- Return the kabocha squash to the pot and add thyme leaves. Mix in beer and cumin. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook soup on medium heat for 5 more minutes.
- Serve soup with a dollop of fromage blanc and a slice of crusty rustic bread.
Recently in Northern California, we’ve had some pretty cold, sometimes rainy, sometimes foggy winter weather. Personally, I love it. I always look forward to the changing of the season, and especially to the culinary ramifications that come with it. By the time one season is ending, I’m usually looking forward to new produce and different types of dishes. In the summer, I always wait impatiently for the first sweet tomato, peach or strawberry. In the fall and winter, I enjoy squash and root vegetables. I especially love soups and stews on a cold day, and these tend to be a staple for us in the winter. So in honor of soups and cold weather, my next couple of posts will feature winter soups and stews. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!
First on the list: White Bean and Ham Soup
1 lb navy beans (picked through and rinsed)
8-10 cups water
1 large onion (diced)
1 1/2 cups carrots (chopped)
1 yellow, orange or red bell pepper (chopped)
2 cups celery (chopped)
1 ham shank (about 1.5 lbs- ask the butcher to cut it in half, if possible)
1/2 andouille sausage (cut into bite-sized pieces)
4 cloves garlic (chopped)
1 pinch herbes to provence (substitute with dried thyme and rosemary if you don’t have these)
Salt and pepper (to taste)
1. Several hours before you begin cooking the soup, put your beans in a large pot and cover them with water. Let them soak until you’re ready to use them (at least 4 hours). I usually begin soaking the beans in the morning when I’m planning on making them for dinner. Once they’re soaked, drain the water and put them back in the large pot.
2. Cover the beans with the water and add the ham shank. Turn on the heat to medium-high and bring the water to a boil. Then reduce to medium heat and let simmer for about an hour.
3. Remove the ham shank from the soup and add all of the vegetables. Once the ham shank is cool enough to touch, cut the meat off the shank, and chop it into bite-sized pieces. Put the ham pieces into the soup. Allow to cook for another hour.
4. About 15 minutes before serving, add the andouille sausage, herbes the provence and salt and pepper.
Serve and enjoy!