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My fall cardigans and shoes are lined up and ready to go and I’m psyched for fall movie season. I’ve been ready for summer to end for weeks. Probably because this used to be when school would start, the cooler weather triggers a conditioned response in me. For me, fall is about beginnings, and inherently optimistic possibilities. And in truth, there is something new on the horizon for Olive and me, a schooling of sorts that’s already underway but will reach a whole new level of intensity sometime in January.
You may have noticed my irregular posting this summer. My low energy in the kitchen wasn’t only due to the never-ending heatwave, but a nonstop, slow-cooking, squiggling project in my belly.
Our yumi, or “beautiful reason” in Japanese, has been a full time distraction. Between regular testing and falling asleep as early as 8pm (unheard of for me, I’m a night owl), my free thoughts usually spent dreaming up recipes and food pairings have been redirected to researching gear and techniques that will help me deliver and take care of our baby beet.
Some vital statistics on yumi: male, due in January 2011, kicks in response to Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto.
With virtually all tests behind us, I’m now back in the kitchen with full-steam-ahead intentions. Of course, our new family member will be taking up more of my free time in the next year, which may account for a lack of consistency in my blogging.
The cool autumn air has also blown in a new French fusion restaurant only one block away from our apartment. The food there is terrific and it has become an inspiration to me for continuing to work with root vegetables, affordable and hearty staples through the fall and winter. The French really know how to bring vegetables to a higher form, n’est-ce pas? L’Artiste loves beets, serves them in all manner of ways with appetizer and entrees, so how could I not have come to love this place? During one of our lasts visits, they served us a complimentary amuse-bouche made of chilled cauliflower soup and what I think might have been avocado oil. It was a perfectly silky soup and inspired me to create a cauliflower soup of my own.
Let’s face it, the last time you probably saw a cauliflower floret it was probably hanging out with raw peppers and broccoli on a platter with an overly salted or benignly sweetened neon orange dip glowing in the middle. But it doesn’t have to be this way, I promise! Cauliflower, like some other vegetables—parsnips, celeriac, and even brussels sprouts—often gets short-shrift. It is the tofu of the vegetable kingdom. And like tofu, sometimes it needs a little help. I’ve made this cauliflower soup lean toward savory with shiitake mushrooms and truffle oil*, but it would also be wonderful moving toward the sweet spectrum when served with apple chips and spiced generously with nutmeg. You may also cook it as a stew with Indian flavors like yogurt and cumin. However you proceed, I hope you will give cauliflower a chance in your kitchen.
cauliflower shiitake soup with truffle oil
makes 6, 1 cup servings
1 tbsp grapeseed oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
1 small onion, diced
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 large head cauliflower
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp kosher salt
2 cups whole milk
1 tsp ground coriander
dash grated nutmeg
small bunch watercress leaves
drizzle, white truffle oil* (optional, but makes the soup extra delicious)
1 tbsp grapeseed oil
1 cup fresh shiitake mushrooms
salt to taste
Clean the cauliflower and chop into small florets and set aside. In a soup pot, saute the onions and garlic in the grapeseed oil. Once they are softened add in all the florets and saute for 1-3 minutes, stirring them up from the bottom once in a while. Add in the stock and 1 cup whole milk. Cook on medium heat until it just starts to boil, being careful for it not to come to a rolling boil. Take the pot off the heat and using a hand held blender, puree the soup until no large visible chunks are seen.
Clean and wash the shiitake mushrooms, cutting off and discarding the tough stem. Cut the mushrooms into long slices and saute them in the oil for 3-5 minutes until they become small but before they turn crispy. Salt the mushrooms while they’re cooking.
To the soup pot, add salt to taste, additional measures of ground coriander and nutmeg and the remaining 2 cups of milk. Puree the soup with your hand held blender again to create further creaminess. Gently heat the soup for 1-2 minutes to serve warm.
To finish, place a few watercress leaves, some sauteed mushrooms, and drizzles of truffle oil (a little goes a long way).