Commanding with cauliflower in soup

I’m glad to see long-overlooked vegetables having their day. But…cauliflower — wow! All of a sudden, cauliflower — the albino broccoli, that veggie that for decades was relegated to be the pale, raw dip delivery device on the crudité tray, the roughage round-out in the bag of steamer veggies or the simple cabbage-like side to add a palatable (but often overcooked) something healthy to the buffet table — is everywhere. It’s like, nothing can be made without it, whether it is pizza-crusted, turned into rice or even taking on the role of the “steak” on the supper plate.

I like cauliflower. I always have. It looks like a snowy flower and has a spicy little kick to it. So I’m open to trying it in any of the myriad forms it’s currently being touted in or the future ones that are bound to come. But, I’ll ease my way into them, and ignore the friend who was encouraging me to eat cauliflower rice with every meal.

What I’ve been most eager to make with cauliflower is soup. It seems the perfect sumptuous component to base and flavor a delicious soup for fall or winter nights. I found a recipe recently from Bon Appetit magazine that combined cauliflower and my favorite nut, cashews, in a blended creamy soup finished with an intriguing crunchy topping.

First, aromatics (shallots, garlic, bay leaves, thyme) are sautéed in a deep soup pot. I skipped the white wine called for to deglaze here, and instead used a combo of a small amount (2 tablespoons or so) of white wine vinegar and some of the stock called for in the recipe.

After the cauliflower and cashews have been added and partially cooked, the stock is added and all are allowed simmering time.

Pureeing the cooked cauliflower soup in a traditional blender seems tedious, now that I’ve discovered the wizardry of my immersion blender. Anyone who makes soup or wants a way to puree in anything (like apple butter, etc.) would benefit by investing (actually they are not that expensive, usually running around $30 for a nice one) in one of these babies.

I don’t know who figured out the topping for this soup, but, it has to be one of the most unique finishes I’ve seen and is what made me want to try this recipe the most.

Buckwheat groats, part of the reserved cauliflower and some chopped cashews are sautéed together, seasoned with salt and finished with paprika and lemon juice. Here is where I get really impressed with recipe developers. Never in my wildest imagination would I have thought of this combination of flavors that resulted in such a yummy, crunchy topping that was a perfect complement. Buckwheat?! Perhaps this humble grain will have its day soon, too.

Cauliflower-Cashew Soup
With Crispy Buckwheat
From Bon Appetit magazine
Makes 8 servings

½ cup olive oil, divided
4 large shallots, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt
½ cup dry white wine
1 large head of cauliflower, cored, cut into small florets, stem chopped, divided
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¾ cup plus 2 Tbsp. cashews
6 cups (or more) vegetable stock, preferably homemade
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons buckwheat groats
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon paprika

Heat ¼ cup oil in a large heavy pot over medium. Add shallots, garlic, bay leaves, and thyme; season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots are translucent, 6–8 minutes.

Add wine, bring to a boil, and cook until reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Set ¾ cup cauliflower aside; add the rest to pot along with cayenne and ¾ cup cashews; season with salt.

Cover pot, reduce heat to low, and cook, shaking pot occasionally, until cauliflower is fork-tender and vegetables have released all their water, 20
25 minutes (check occasionally to make sure vegetables are not browning; reduce heat if they are).

Add stock and season with salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, until cauliflower is falling apart, 20–25 minutes.

Discard bay leaves. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, finely chop reserved ¾ cup cauliflower and remaining 2 Tbsp. cashews. Heat remaining ¼ cup oil in a small skillet over medium. Add cauliflower, cashews, and buckwheat; season with salt. Cook, stirring often, until cauliflower and cashews are golden brown and buckwheat is browned and crisp, 5–8 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and paprika. Let cool slightly.

Working in batches if needed, purée soup in a blender until very smooth. Return to pot and reheat over medium-low, stirring and adding more stock to thin if needed (soup should be the consistency of heavy cream). Taste and season soup again if needed.

Serve soup topped with toasted cauliflower buckwheat mixture.

Do Ahead: Soup can be made 2 days ahead (or 1 month if frozen). Let cool; transfer to airtight containers and chill.

Blogger’s Note: I used my immersion blender
rather than a pitcher blender to puree the soup.

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