Thursday, January 26, 2012
You can add cauliflower to the list of things I was decidedly “not into” growing up. Along with most other vegetables and pretty much any food that wasn’t a chicken finger. I am so glad that my taste buds have matured with age (even if my sense of humor hasn’t).
In the winter, it’s tough to get psyched about vegetables like you can in spring or summer. And I am at a ahem, dietary point where I needed to be amped up on veg. One particular specimen that I’m glad to have welcomed into my repertoire is cauliflower and I’m really glad I did. It’s dense and satisfying and needs very little done to it to make it into a tasty side dish, or a creamy soup.
This particular soup is absolutely perfect mid-winter food. Hearty, thick and warm, but fairly low calorie and low maintenance in terms of preparation. I thought it might be a little “one note” in terms of flavor so I jazzed the finished product up with a bright Sun-dried Tomato Tapenade and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.
SLOW ROASTED CAULIFLOWER SOUP with
SUN-DRIED TOMATO TAPENADE
One head cauliflower
2 large shallots
3 cloves garlic
Milk or half and half (optional)
Salt and pepper
Chicken or vegetable stock (32 oz., or about three cups)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Use a large knife to trim off the stem and green leaves of your cauliflower, but keep the head whole. Take a few small pats of butter and smoosh it into the cauliflower; then roast for 1 ½ hours or until a knife cuts into the middle of the head with no resistance. I tented foil over mine to prevent it from getting too brown. It still got a bit of color, but not too much. I didn’t want the resulting soup to be brown, because letsbeserious, who wants brown soup?
Once your cauliflower is roasted through, remove it from the oven and let it cool slightly before chopping into large chunks. If it’s nice and roasted, it will pretty much fall apart at the sight of your knife. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm a generous drizzle of olive oil and a pat of butter. Mince shallots and add to pan, sautéing until translucent and fragrant. Add garlic, adjust the heat down just a bit so it doesn’t scorch and let cook another minute. Add your cauliflower to the pot and pour the stock in to cover. Turn the heat up a touch, add a generous amount of salt and pepper and let simmer for 10 minutes so the flavors combine.
Reduce heat to low and puree the solids into the stock using an immersion blender. If you do not have an immersion blender: puree your soup in batches in a blender, being careful not to over-fill it, because hot liquids expand. Once pureed, return the soup to your pot and pour in a splash of half and half and a pat of butter to thicken a bit. Season to taste with more salt and pepper.
Sun-dried Tomato Tapenade
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. sherry vinegar
Pinch of sugar
Combine all ingredients in a blender or small capacity food processor. Pulse until it becomes a thick dressing. Can keep refrigerated for a week. I originally made this as a salad dressing a few days prior to making the soup. By the time soup day rolled around it had thickened a bit to be less like a dressing and more like a tapenade. I swirled it into the hot soup and the brightness of sun-dried tomato and sherry vinegar was just perfect with the creamy soup.
Makes approximately 5 servings. Top hot soup with a swirl of tapenade and grated some parmesan cheese. This soup sticks to the ribs and is filling, but has very little fat (and can be made completely dairy free if you’re into that sort of thing- just skip the butter and half and half). A perfect creamy winter soup for lunch or dinner. Pair with a simple green salad and some crusty bread to bulk it up into a full meal.