As the air turns brisk and the leaves begin to change to a yellow hue, our bodies—and bellies—also shift gears and become ready for some warm weather cooking. For many cooking enthusiasts, nothing signals the start of fall more than the cool air outside and a homemade soup simmering on the stove inside. We love the versatility of the often-ignored cauliflower that the end-of-summer and beginning-of-autumn crops bring, and this recipe from Golden Door Spa will help you see the cruciferous vegetable in a whole new light as it warms you up from the inside out.
“This silken soup has the rich flavor of a classic, indulgent, cheesy fondue but with none of the guilt,” Golden Door Spa says in its cookbook, Golden Door Cooks at Home. “The secret here is to cook the cauliflower until it is very tender and then puree it until smooth and fluffy. The method yields what appears to be a cream- based soup, but which is, in fact, made up almost entirely of good-for-you vegetables and fat-free milk.”
Like other cruciferous vegetables, cauliflower is an abundant source of phytonutrients and enzymes that help support the body’s detox, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory systems. It’s also an excellent source of vitamins C and K, folate and dietary fiber, vitamins B5 and B6, tryptophan, omega-3 fatty acids and manganese.
The Parsley Oil recipe puts a special final touch on the soup. “Herb oils add striking color and delicious herbal essence to many dishes,” Golden Door says. “The method of blanching the herbs, shocking them in ice water and squeezing out all excess moisture ensures that the oil is very vibrant and flavorful.”
Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Caramelized Cauliflower (Serves 8)
2 lbs cauliflower, trimmed
Olive oil spray
1 tsp sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
½ small leek, sliced (1 cup)
2 cups skim milk
2 cups chicken stock or store-bought low-sodium broth
1 tsp dry mustard
⅛ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
2 oz. Gruyère cheese, finely grated (about 1 loosely packed cup)
Parsley Oil (see below), for serving
For the Parsley Oil (Makes ½ cup):
1½ cups packed fresh herbs such as basil or Italian parsley leaves, dill sprigs or chives
½ cup grapeseed oil
Pinch of kosher salt
- Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil; prepare a bowl full of ice water.
- Plunge the herb leaves or sprigs into the boiling water for 10 seconds and then immediately transfer them to the ice water bath for 2 minutes to stop the cooking. Remove the herbs from the ice water and place them in a clean kitchen towel. Use your hands to squeeze out as much moisture from the herbs as possible.
- Coarsely chop the herbs and place them in a blender. Add the oil and salt and blend on high for 1 minute.
- Place a strainer lined with a double layer of cheesecloth or a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl. Strain the oil, pressing lightly to extract more from the herbs; let it stand until all the oil has passed through the strainer. Discard the solids.
- The herb oil can be refrigerated for up to 4 days. Do not heat the oil, as this will destroy its delicate flavor and bright green color.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Chop the cauliflower into enough small florets and stems to equal 2 cups. Coarsely chop the remaining cauliflower and set it aside in a separate bowl.
- Spray the 2 cups of cauliflower one or two times with olive oil. Add the sugar and a pinch each of the salt and white pepper. Toss the cauliflower with a fork to coat it with the oil and seasonings.
- Transfer cauliflower to a baking dish and spread it in a single layer. Bake, stirring once or twice, until the cauliflower is light golden brown, about 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, spray a large saucepan with olive oil and heat over medium heat.
- Add the leek and cook, stirring, until softened and not at all brown, 4- 5 minutes. Add the coarsely chopped cauliflower, milk, stock, dry mustard, nutmeg, ½ tsp salt and ⅛ tsp white pepper, and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the Parsley Oil:
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool slightly.
- Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth and creamy, working in batches if necessary. Return the soup to a clean saucepan and reheat it over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until it simmers lightly. Add the Gruyère and stir until it has melted. Remove the pan from the heat.
- Ladle the soup into warm bowls. Top each with caramelized cauliflower and drizzle with a little parsley oil. Serve hot.
Nutrition information per serving: 101 calories | 3 g fat | 1.4 g saturated fat | 9 g protein | 12 g carbohydrate | 4 g fiber | 11 mg cholesterol | 113 mg sodium
Reprinted with permission from Golden Door Cooks at Home: Favorite Recipes From the Celebrated Spa by Dean Rucker and Marah Stets (April 2009 Clarkson Potter); $40.
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