Home with the Lost Italian: Cauliflower soup anything but bland
The local farmers markets have sprung to life with a bounty of summer produce, and Tony visits them regularly for inspiration. He frequents several in the area, but over the years he has developed a great relationship with his buddy Jim Driscoll, of Driscoll Farms in Glyndon, Minn.
Last week when Tony was making his rounds at the Farmers Market at the Dike East Park, Jim encouraged him to take advantage of the lovely, fresh cauliflower that had just come into season, pointing to two crates filled with this summer vegetable. When Tony saw the gorgeous heads of white and purple cauliflower, he knew exactly which recipe would showcase them best: cream of cauliflower soup.
Soup can often be overlooked during these hotter days of summer, but it is a wonderful way to feature the vegetables that are coming in season while they are at their peak in freshness and flavor. There is something so appealing about cooking with produce that has been locally grown, and when you know, or are, the grower, it tastes even better.
We tend to think of cauliflower as the somewhat bland, white vegetable that turns up on a standard platter of raw vegetables. We’ve heard all our lives that it’s good for us, and so we dutifully eat it while wishing for something a little more flavorful.
But when prepared as a soup, something wonderful happens during the transformation. Cauliflower goes from being a rather bulky and ordinary vegetable to a full-blown celebration of summer. Similar to broccoli but more delicate in its nature, cauliflower has a lovely nuttiness to it that forms the essence of the soup’s flavor.
Chicken stock, onion, butter, garlic and heavy cream make up the remaining ingredients, which Tony recommended to “blitz thoroughly until well blended.” As usual, Tony appreciates any opportunity to use his hand-held immersion blender, which he prefers over a liquid blender or food processor.
If you haven’t added one to your kitchen inventory yet, you should: in addition to making clean-up easier, an immersion blender allows you to blend the ingredients without having to transfer them to another container (always a plus for hot liquids), and gives the user more control than other gadgets.
With cousins like broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts, it’s no surprise to discover that cauliflower is similarly packed with nutrients. It is an excellent source for folate, fiber and omega-3 fats, as well as vitamins C, K and B6. It is widely used in the cuisine of the Mediterranean and is commonly found in pasta dishes throughout Italy.
In addition to providing great nutritional benefits, cream of cauliflower soup is full of flavor and elegance, especially if you use small florets of purple cauliflower as a garnish for a beautiful contrast to the soup’s striking ivory color. Rich only in its velvety smooth texture, the flavor of this soup is light and garden fresh, or according to Tony, “full of the flavor of summer.”
Take some time this week to get out and explore our local farmers markets, where you can now find a variety of cauliflower, tomatoes, beets, onions, potatoes, herbs, lettuce, cucumbers and sometimes even garlic. Use as much as you can in your recipes – for this one, you can use locally grown cauliflower, onion and garlic – and savor the pleasure of food that is local, fresh and full of summer.
Cream of Cauliflower Soup
Serves: 4 to 6
1 head of cauliflower, stem removed, roughly chopped
½ yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 quart chicken stock
2 oz. unsalted butter
4 garlic cloves
½ cup heavy cream
1 oz. roux (optional, recipe below)
Salt and pepper to taste
Use small florets of cauliflower to garnish – purple or green cauliflower varieties are great for a burst of color.
Sauté the onion, garlic and cauliflower in butter over medium-low heat for five minutes. Add the chicken stock and simmer over medium-low heat for 45 minutes. Add the roux and puree the mixture with a hand-held (immersion) blender. Add the heavy cream and mix again for about a minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with small florets of cauliflower.
To store: Pour into an airtight container and refrigerate for up to one week or freeze for up to two months.
For the Roux
½ cup butter, shortening, lard or vegetable oil (the more flavorful the fat, the better the roux)
½ cup flour
Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan and stir in the flour. Cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly until a light, straw color is achieved. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.