This past week we were able to pick up some “local” cauliflower from one of the grocers. We put local in quotes, because they claimed that it was grown in Arizona, but nothing more about where, what variety of cauliflower, etc. What’s up with that?
In many respects, that has to be the oddest thing about grocery stores: almost no information is provided about what you’re going to be, ultimately, putting in your mouth, except for the price per pound. We think that’s a real shame, because there are some very good varieties of produce available that very few people know about. Plus, there are differences in the taste depending on where, and how the produce is grown, picked, and handled. As an aside, we hate that most checkout clerks thump our fruits around. We often spend several minutes selecting the best produce, and we really don’t need to have a few additional bruises.
Well, back to the cauliflower soup. We pretty much just made this up, but included the roasting technique we learned when we made roasted cauliflower risotto. It also includes our standard way of making stock: save scraps of various veggies from the week and boil them up. Let’s scratch out some soup!
Don’t throw away that cauliflower stem, as it’s perfect for making the stock you need. A cauliflower stem is exactly what we mean when we say we save scraps of vegetables over the week to cook up for stock. Besides cauliflower stems, we might have (clean) onion peels, skins and the germ from garlic cloves, the peels from carrots, etc. It’s all clean and edible; you just might not want to eat it because of its appearance or texture. All that gets put into a container, and, at the end of the week, we just simmer the scraps with water for 45 minutes. Then drain and strain the broth. For the cheese, just use a kind you like.
Procedure in detail:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment for easy cleanup.
Toss cauliflower. Put the cauliflower in a large bowl, add salt, pepper, and oil, and toss until coated.
Roast cauliflower. Roasting the cauliflower will bring out an additional nutty, toasty flavor, and, while you’re thinking of skipping this step, don’t. It’s not difficult and you have to cook the cauliflower, anyway, so you might as well roast it. Put the cauliflower on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer and roast for 45 to 60 minutes, or until it’s browned, or even charred, in a few spots. Just make sure to stir it from time to time. The roasting time will vary with the amount of moisture that’s in the cauliflower, so be patient — ours took close to an hour.
Simmer. Mix the cauliflower with the stock and bring to a simmer — not a boil, but just hot and steaming. If you taste the cauliflower, you’ll see that roasting was the way to go.
Blend. Working in batches (we had to do four batches because our food processor doesn’t hold a lot), scoop some soup into a blender or food processor and blend. BE CAREFUL, as the hot soup can make the lid pop off the blender, since the heat causes the air to expand. We don’t have a blender, but we’ve read that leaving the lid slightly ajar and covered with a towel will work. As you purée the soup, transfer it to a temporary bowl.
Heat and season. Pour all the creamed soup back into the saucepan, and, if needed, heat it on low until the soup is steaming. Taste — that’s why you’re the chef — and season with salt and pepper as needed.
Plate. Divide the soup into bowls. For a nice little touch, we topped ours with some freshly-made croutons and a bit of grated cheese.
The weather was threatening to rain and drizzle the night we made this, so we thought a nice hot soup wouldn’t go amiss. At first we were only going to blend the soup partially, leaving bits of cauliflower in the soup, but when we saw how smooth and creamy the blended portion was, we just went whole hog and processed every last drop. We think that was a good call, as it seemed to make the soup a lot heartier. Overall, this is a very good soup; the only disappointment is in the color — after roasting, the cauliflower is no longer nice and white. We’ll give it four stars, partly because of the additional effort of roasting, and partly from the need to blend it smooth.