I was a really picky eater when I was a child. Texture for me was a big thing and if I found something to be with unpleasant texture, no matter how yummy the taste, I will refuse to eat it. And as with most kids, my mother and father were the victims of my strong food opinions. They went though stages of emotions while watching me eat (or pick) the laborious homemade meals they had prepared. Also, as most parents, they had a range of tactics for cooking for the family (including me) that were aimed to keep us all happy and well fed, but doing that in a sane matter was not always attainable. And as we all do, my parents learned as they went when my dad quickly discovered that if the kids don’t see the ingredients, they think they are not there. This is when he started cooking all the vegetables whole (so they are easy to find later), then pureeing them and returning them to back the meal so I would think “they are not there”. In fact, that approach was so successful that even when I was a grown up woman, I would still boil some vegetables (like carrots) whole, then puree them and return to the soup. Some here my wonder what happens with the clear-broth soups...well, that is another story which I will tell another time.
My dad’s clever approach started my life-long love of cream soups and for many years the only way I could eat boiled vegetables was when they are creamed. With age and experience I discovered many more vegetables (than potatoes and carrots) that made wonderful cream soups, which made me even more excited.
So, to no one’s surprise, today’s recipe is for a cozy cream of cauliflower soup. It was not until recently, when I discovered that cauliflower makes one of the most delicious and complex cream soups. And the reason is that cauliflower changes its taste as it cooks. The shorter it is cooked, the more cabbage-like will taste The longer it is cooked the nuttier and sweeter it becomes. And because its small very soluble fiber content, it makes for a wonderful silky-creamy soup without adding cream or milk.
To this recipe I have added a simple garnish of pan fried cauliflower flowerets that are lightly charred, with a hint of spice and a wonderful fresh lemony taste. (Psst...they are so yummy, you might be tempted to make a whole head a cauliflower of them and eat them as a tasty bite while sipping a glass of lovely white wine).
This cozy winter soup is one of my favorite now and I hope you will like it too.
Cream of Cauliflower Soup
• 1 head cauliflower (about 2 pounds)
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• 1 leek, white and light green part only, halved lengthwise, washed well of the sand and sliced thin
• 1 small onion, thinly sliced
• 1 garlic clove, smashed
• 1 medium potato, peeled and sliced in large cubes
• Salt and black pepper
• 4.5–5 cups of water
• 4 tbsp butter
• 1/2 lemon, grated skin and juiced
• 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
• 1 tbsp capers (optional), roughly chopped
Cut the cauliflower in half and remove the core. Pull a heaping 1 cup of 1/2-inch florets and save for later for garnish. Pull or cut the remaining cauliflower in 3-inch pieces and set aside.
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a medium-sized pot. Add the leek and onion and sauté until soft but not brown. Add the garlic, stir and cook for about 30 seconds, making sure it doesn’t burn.
Increase the heat to high and add the water, potatoes and a tea spoon of salt. Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes stirring from time to time.
Meanwhile, heat up a large empty heavy pan (cast iron preferably) over high heat and add the butter and the reserved cup of cauliflower florets. Lower to medium-high and brown the florets by stirring frequently, about 5-7 minutes. The flowerets are done when the edges are slightly charred. Turn off the heat and stir the red pepper flakes, lemon rind, juice and capers. Transfer to a small bowl and add salt to taste. Cover to keep warm.
Process the soup in a regular or immersion blender until smooth and creamy (hint: the higher the speed the smoother the soup will be). Add salt and pepper to taste and a tablespoon of butter, if desired.
Ladle the soup into individual bowls and garnish with a tablespoon of the spicy florets. Add grated Parmesan cheese for extra flavor, if desired.