Warm meal in one bowl
What could be better than soup
I wrote a haiku about soup. Need I say more about my affection for the dish? And really, can anyone dispute the perfection of a soup meal—satisfying, simple, flavorful, full-o-veggies, and cheap to boot. Each year from November to April, I unilaterally declare Wednesdays “Soup Night” but no-one here complains about this particular dictatorial edict. They love soup too.
I suspect some of you are thinking that you too love soup, but are not the biggest fan of cauliflower. To confess, I never feel enthusiastic about cauliflower either. That is, until I cook it, taste it, and remember that the bland, white color belies its actual sweet and nutty flavor which is sweeter yet as we have experienced a few light frosts. This recipe showcases that subtle sweetness if you are careful not to over-cook it. Remember, cauliflower belongs to the cabbage family and will smell unappetizingly sulfurous if cooked to mush. Past experiences with stinky cauliflower may be the origin of your hesitation. Hestitate no more and try it. You can thank me later.
- 3 T butter
- 1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup chopped)
- 1 medium carrot, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
- 1 stalk of celery with leaves, finely chopped (1/3 cup)
- 1 t kosher salt
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- 2 T all-purpose flour
- ¼ t white pepper
- 3 cups stock
- 3 cups milk
- 2 T sake or dry white wine
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 medium potato, peeled and finely diced (about 1 cup)
- 1 small head of cauliflower cut into small florets (about 8 cups or 2.5 lbs)
- 1 T mince fresh parsely
- ¼ t mince fresh thyme or tarragon
- In a large sauce pan, melt the butter slowly over medium heat.
- Add onions, carrot, celery and salt; sweat the veggies slowly (about 5 minutes)stirring occassionally until they are soft and transparent. Reduce the heat if the veggies begin to brown.
- When veggies are nearly done, add the minced garlic and cook another minute until fragrant.
- Next, add 2 T of flour; stir continuously for another minute creating a roux--a flour-butter paste coating the veggies.
- Next add the stock, milk, and all remaining ingredients except the parsely and thyme. Bring to a boil and reduce heat.
- Simmer for 15 minutes or until florets are cooked but firm.
- Turn off heat, stir in herbs, and partially purree with a masher of immersion blender.
- Serve with warm, buttered bread.
In our house, soup night comes with a side of rustic, whole grain bread bought from the bakery and warmed in the oven. (This is a weeknight meal and I am certainly not about to start baking bread.) Spread with butter, warm bread completes the meal and serves as the perfect medium for sopping up every last drop of soupy goodness.
Preserve it: Cauliflower is in season. Buy a few extra heads and freeze it for soup. Cut it into florets, soak in salted water to clean and remove insects, then blanch in a large pot of boiling water a pound at a time for 3 minutes—place florets in the boiling water, return the lid to the pot, and start timing immediately. If you add more than a pound at a time, the temperature will drop too low. After 3 minutes, promptly remove and place in ice water. Drain and arrange florets on cookie sheets and place in the freezer. Once frozen, place florets in freezer-safe bags and date. I prefer this method so that the florets are individually frozen, and I can take from the bag the quantity I need.
Cooking with Kids: This recipe lends itself to all sorts of activities for kids, but then it won’t be a quick meal. Never include your kids in the cooking process if you are pressed for time–everyone will become angry and frustrated. I know this from experience. So if you have ample time, have the kids do the weighing and measuring—an excellent, hands-on math application. I always have my girls harvest the herbs and mince them with their tiny kid-scissors. I also have them peal the garlic clove with their nimble little fingers and then pushing it through a garlic press. My little assistants jump at the chance to use any gadgetry.