Friday, July 8, 2011

Soup, Beautiful Soup

R is the co-head of the kitchen, along with C. I don't get to cook with R. much since our schedules don't match up very often, but I feel privileged to work with her every time I do. R has a booming laugh, a sure hand and wide breadth of knowledge. She's also an excellent and inventive cook. The food she makes is a marriage of the Old World and New. She once asked me to taste piece of kubbe that she had filled with sun-dried tomatoes and walnuts instead of meat. It was probably the best kubbe I had every tasted, and I don't even like sun-dried tomatoes.

It was R who explained to me, as I was chopping a mound of cauliflower, that cauliflower leaves are edible. Like the stems of swiss chard, cauliflower leaves can be chopped and sauteed, or steamed. They are slightly bitter and have intense cauliflowery taste. There's no need to waste them. These are things I have learned in the kitchen, from women like R. and C.  If you can avoid waste, do so. Be creative. Use your cauliflower leaves.

You don't always have to eat your cauliflower leaves in order to use them.  You can also do with them what I did as I was making this soup- toss them in a pot with the core of the cauliflower, some onion scraps and what ever else you've been chopping, cover with water and make a quick vegetable stock. Then, throw 'em in the compost.

North Africanish Roasted Cauliflower Soup

Adapted from The Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home by the Moosewood Collective

I've been thinking about this soup for a while. Ok, well, not really a while- since I decided to write about cauliflower.  Long enough for it to be on my mind. I used to make it all the time, and then, for no reason at all, I just stopped. But I missed the soup and was thinking about. More specifically I was looking for ways to make it deeper. Then, a few weeks ago, I was at my uncle's house nibbling on a plate of roasted cauliflower as if it was popcorn, and it hit me. In the original recipe you cook the cauliflower along with the potatoes. That's lovely and all, but there is very little in the world that beats the taste of roasted cauliflower. So then next time I made the soup I roasted the cauliflower and reveled in the results. Here is a soup that is both light and deep. It will serve as first course, or, if served over couscous, as a meal all on to itself. Yes, it's summer, and who wants hot soup? But I promise you actually do want hot soup. Really, you do.

2 1/2 cups chopped onions
2 tbl vegetable oil
2 potatoes (about 2 cups, diced)
1 medium head of cauliflower (about 5 cups chopped)
olive oil
2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp ground fennel
5 cups hot vegetable broth, or water

2 tbl fresh lemon juice
salt, pepper

chopped tomatoes (optional)
chopped green onion (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Break the cauliflower into florets. Toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread on a roasting pan in one layer and roast for 20-25, until brown and crispy along the edges.

In the meantime, saute the onions in the vegetable oil until translucent. Stir in the cumin, fennel and potatoes and cook for a minute. Add the hot broth/water. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer for around 10 minutes, until the potatoes are hot.  Remove from heat. Add the cauliflower, which, at that point should be ready.

In a blender, or food processor, or with a hand blender, puree the vegetables until smooth. Add the lemon juice, and the salt and pepper to taste.  Reheat the soup, if necessary

Serve garnished with tomatoes and green onions, if you'd like.

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