Sunday, March 27, 2011

"Don't Knock It Till You Try It" Curried Cauliflower Soup

This soup is the answer to that age-old question: "What the hell am I supposed to do with all this CAULIFLOWER?" We've all been there, right? Damn cauliflower. Every once in a while, I go on a tear at the grocery store or farmer's market and buy vegetables with wild abandon, and with the best of intentions. And then they go in the fridge. And sit. And sit a little longer. Until I frantically locate a recipe to use up those leeks (potato leek gratin) or kale (ribollita soup). So what do you do with a head of cauliflower? Usually I roast it in a hot oven with olive oil, salt & pepper. But I wasn't in the mood for that. Then I remembered a recipe that my sister Holly emailed me a couple years ago from her boss, Kristan. At the time, she said to me, and I quote, "It sounds really weird, but it is SO GOOD." And she was right. It's weird. And SO GOOD.

Now you're probably thinking, "This lady only posts recipes about soup."  Not true, but I do LOVE soup. So homey and comforting, and since we're inching up on spring I feel the need to make as much soup as possible before the snow melts. I have made a few changes to the original recipe- I decreased the amount of oil, because it really doesn't need much. I also increased the amount of brown sugar- it's not a sweet soup by any stretch, but the sugar definitely rounds it out and balances the healthy dose of cayenne. This soup is delicious, healthy, and filling.  So don't knock it until you've tried it. Curried Cauliflower Soup.

First, chop up one onion (or two, as I usually double this recipe and freeze half). Saute the onion and curry powder in olive oil in a large pot (like my beloved Le Creuset) over medium heat.  I also add a bit of salt at this point and a couple grinds of pepper, since you really need to season soups and stews in stages to help build flavor.

When the onion is soft and translucent, maybe 4-5 minutes, add one peeled, cored and cubed apple.

Next, chop up one head of cauliflower (I usually cut out the core to make cutting the florets easier, but there is no science to this- it all gets pureed in the end.)

Then add 1 quart, or four cups, of chicken broth. Now, the ideal way to make this soup is with homemade chicken stock, which is what I'm using here. I had no idea the difference it would make in flavor and body to soup until I made some homemade stock last year. (I have a great recipe courtesy of my BFF, Ina Garten, and I'll post it sometime!) I make a huge pot of homemade stock and freeze most of it. But any good quality, low sodium chicken stock will work fine (I prefer low-sodium so I can control the salt content in the soup. V. important).

Bring the chunky soup to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer until the apple and cauliflower are very soft and tender and you can pierce them easily with a fork. At that point, take an immersion blender and puree the hell out of it. This is a soup that really tastes best if its smooth, so spend some time on this step. If you don't have a stick blender, you can use a regular stand blender. Do it in batches and be careful because it's very hot!

Once it's pureed, return the soup to the pot (if you used a stand mixer) and add the brown sugar, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste. When you serve it, add a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt (which helps to cool some of the spicyness from the cayenne) and some homemade croutons (recipe follows) right on top- I love the crunch it adds to the soup. Eat, and repeat (yup, it's that good).

Curried Cauliflower Soup

1 T. olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 T. curry powder
1 peeled, cored, and cubed apple
1 head of cauliflower, chopped into 1 inch size pieces
1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
2 T. brown sugar
1/4 t. cayenne (or to taste)
salt & pepper (to taste)
sour cream or Greek yogurt for serving

(1) Saute onion and curry powder in olive oil in large pot. Add a bit of salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper.

(2) When onion is soft and translucent, add apple, cauliflower, and broth, scraping the brown bits off of the bottom to incorporate.

(3) Bring broth to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer until apple and cauliflower are very very tender when pierced with a fork.

(4) Using either an immersion blender, a food processor, or a blender, puree the soup in batches and then return to the pot.

(5) After you puree all of the soup, add the brown sugar, cayenne, salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt, and top with homemade croutons.

Just a note: This soup freezes very well, and I usually double the recipe and stash half of it in the freezer for later. 

Homemade Croutons

Cube bread in roughly 3/4 inch pieces.  For every 1 cup of bread cubes, use one teaspoon of olive oil.  Toss bread cubes with olive oil, and a generous dash of kosher salt and several grinds of pepper.  Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, tossing once halfway through.  Allow to cool and toss several on the soup (or a salad!).

I make these once during the week and they keep for several days in a plastic baggie.

Enjoy! xo H

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Tomato Soup That Started It All

A couple of weeks ago, I wanted to make some soup.  As I was looking through my collection of recipes, I thought to myself, "I wish I could do this all the time."  You see, I love to cook.  And for the most part, I'm pretty good at it.  Or at least I never have a problem collecting my friends at the last minute asking for mouths to feed (especially my friend Bill, who never misses an invite). When folks ask me what my hobby is, I feel like I should respond with:  mountainbiking.  Or ice climbing.  Or skiing, at least.  But what I always tell them is that:  I love to cook.  I also love to eat good food.  So deciding to have a career as a lawyer makes sense, right?  I'm lucky to have found a fulfilling career as a union lawyer, but I realized that I needed an outlet for all the cooking I like to do.  So here I am:  a technologically-impared lawyer writing my own little food blog.  And the recipe that started it all was a delicious soup that is the perfect accompanyment to your classic grilled cheese sandwich:  Creamy Tomato Soup.  This recipe is a combination of two different ones I found online (which is something I typically do- mash together a couple different recipes to find one I like even better).

First things first, chop up one onion.

(Ok, I just started this thing.  I promise my pictures will get better.  Baby steps.)  Next, mince up 4 cloves of garlic.

Dice up one red bell pepper (I forgot to take a picture, but I figure you can manage).  Throw the onion, garlic, and bell pepper in a pot with 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a medium or large pot.  Add a good pinch of salt and several grinds of fresh black pepper.  Saute 4-5 minute, or until the onion is starting to look translucent.

A nice, deep pot like this Le Creuset (thanks Mom & Dad!) is the perfect pot for soup.

Now here comes the weird step- dollop 8 ounces of cream cheese (I used light, but full fat is fine) into the pot.  This makes the soup so good and creamy!

Stir the cream cheese around until it gets melty and ooey-gooey.  (Sorry, I'm a lawyer, not a professional chef.  So I don't know all the techincal words for these things.  I'll try harder, promise.)

Add to that a cup of milk, 3 cups of low-sodium tomato juice, a 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes (I used a box of Pomi tomatoes- which are imported from Italy and you can find them in the regular section of the grocery store.  You pay a bit of a premium, but I think they have the best flavor.  I also love San Marzano tomatoes.  But any diced tomato will do.)  Finally, add the 2 teaspoons of sugar, which helps to cut the acidity of the tomatoes, and brings out their sweetness.  After a stir, it should look something like this.  I taste it at this point and add salt and pepper if it needs it.

Finally, roll up several leaves of fresh basil, and chop 'em up.  Fresh basil is best, but 1 tablespoon of dried basil will work too.

Toss the basil into the soup and stir!  Simmer for 15 minutes or so, stirring frequently.

Finally, use an immersion/stick blender to blend up the soup.  I don't like to overdo it- a few chunks of tomato and onion add a nice touch to me.  If you don't have an immersion blender, blend it in batches in your regular blender, but be careful because it's hot!  Here's what it should look like:

This soup is so delicious and easy!  It is a faithful standby when you're in a pinch, and I think you'll come back to it over and over again. 

I actually forgot to take a picture before I took my first bite of the grilled cheese.  What can I say?  It was dinner and I was hungry. 

Creamy Tomato Soup

1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, choppped
2 T. olive oil
8 oz. cream cheese
1 c. milk
28 oz. can (or box) diced tomatoes
3 c. low-sodium tomato juice
handful of fresh basil, or 1 T. dried
2 t. sugar
salt and pepper, to taste

(1) Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add the chopped onion, red bell pepper, and garlic, plus a good pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cook 4-5 minutes until the vegetables are soft and the onion starts to look translucent.

(2) Add the cream cheese and stir till melty.  Add the milk and cook until simmering, a minute or two.

(3) Add the tomatoes and their liquid, tomato juice, basil, and sugar.  Simmer the mixture for 15 minutes or so, stirring frequently.

(4) Blend the soup with an immersion or stick blender until smooth but still a little chunky.

This makes a BIG batch of soup- roughly 8 cups.  Too much for this single gal.  But as any of my friends will tell you, I have an inability to make any food in small quantities.  Luckily, I found that despite the fact it has milk in it, the soup actually froze pretty well.  When I reheated it, I had to add an extra dash of sugar because it tasted a bit acidic.  Mass quantity problem solved. 

Enjoy!  xo H