Perfect for a Cold Winter’s Night: Smooth, Creamy, Wonderful Cauliflower Soup

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My parents’ cookbook, a wonderful legacy

Brrrrr! Extraordinary winter (for this area) continues here at Glover Gardens.  We’re breaking out the soups to warm up from the inside out. I’ve had a hankering to make an old classic from my parents’ cookbook, Cauliflower Soup.

I have great memories of making Cauliflower Soup with my Mom, of developing the recipe together, in fact, but when I looked back at the cookbook she created for my Dad’s real estate company years ago, that version was …  well … unenlightened.  Literally.  It had twice as much cream and half the chicken stock, plus extra butter. As an adult, I’ve been making a lighter version, although not lately, because the Grill-Meister is NOT A FAN of cooked cauliflower. He proclaims that he hates the cooked version of most vegetables, but I’ve been working on him for the decade we’ve been married and we’re starting to see that it is OVERCOOKED vegetables that he hates.

I had all the ingredients for Cauliflower Soup when Winter Storm Inga dropped in on us this week, so I took on the Grill-Meister’s cauliflower contempt as a challenge. This warming soup comes together quickly, so on Sunday afternoon I whipped it up and took him a small portion as a late afternoon snack / taste test (I was afraid to plan on it for dinner in case it got two thumbs down).

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Two ounces of yummy, creamy goodness, garnished with sour cream, nutmeg and green onions and ready for the Grill-Meister’s taste test

He liked it! He told me to be sure and mention that he was a cauliflower hater so you’d understand the significance of his appreciation.  The Grill-Meister’s biggest compliment (in his opinion) was: “It doesn’t even taste like cauliflower!” We had cups of this creamy goodness for dinner the next night with a simple green salad, and I’m pretty sure he had two servings.

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Our warm cups of Cauliflower Soup; “Mema” rolls are the perfect accompaniment

So, now that I have the Grill-Meister’s Seal of Approval, I’m sharing this recipe with you.  Cauliflower Soup is easy and quick, warm and comforting, and yet surprisingly elegant. You can serve it in shot glasses as a fun party appetizer, as a first course for a fancy meal, or paired with a salad and crusty bread for a quick weeknight supper. It can be produced as a vegetarian soup with the substitution of vegetable broth for the chicken stock, and vegan if you do that and also use coconut or almond milk instead of the cream / half ‘n’ half.

Cauliflower Soup (serves 6-8)

Ingredients

  • 1 head of cauliflower, washed and separated into florets
  • 1 bunch of green onions (about 8), chopped into 1-inch lengths
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 3-4 cups of chicken stock, preferably homemade (enough to cover the cauliflower
  • and onions in the saucepan but not more)
  • 1 cup of heavy cream (substitute half ‘n’ half for part or all of the cream for a lighter version)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. white pepper
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 – 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, freshly grated, if possible
  • Optional garnishes (you can mix and match)
    • sour cream (dollop)
    • pesto (swirl)
    • green onions, thinly sliced
    • chopped parsley
    • toasted nuts, chopped
    • more nutmeg

Cooking Instructions

Combine the cauliflower, shallot, green onions and chicken stock in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a good simmer for 10 minutes or more, until cauliflower is soft. Remove from the stove, transfer to a blender and purée. You can also use an immersion blender. Be very, very careful with the hot mixture and make sure the lid to your blender is on tight.  The purée should be as smooth as possible.

Place the purée back in the saucepan over medium heat and stir in the cream or half ‘n’ half. Bring to a simmer and then reduce to medium low, cooking at a gently simmer until thickened as desired, for 5 minutes or more.  While it is simmering, add the minimum amounts of salt, white pepper and nutmeg, then taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.

Serve hot, garnished (see options above).  My minimum garnishes for this lovely and comforting soup are a generous dollop of sour cream, some green onions for crunch, and a dusting of nutmeg.

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The vegetables ready to be boiled
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Barely cover the vegetables with the stock
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Cook until the cauliflower is soft
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Puree until smooth
Add the Cream
Put back on the heat and add the cream (I used part cream and part half ‘n’ half, since it wasn’t a holiday)
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After the cream, the soup thickens nicely
Adding the Nutmeg to Cauliflower Soup
Add the nutmeg; freshly grated is best
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Rich and satisfying, this soup is a winter winner

References

Copyright 2018, Glover Gardens

 

 

 

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup with a Hint of Cumin

It’s fall!  Our local farmers’ market is laden with seasonal vegetables, and I picked up a nice medium-sized butternut squash with the intent to create a soup that even the vegetable-hating Grill-Meister would eat.  (I love the challenge presented by his picky taste buds!)  butternut-squash

If the soup turned out well, it would be a candidate for Thanksgiving and / or Christmas dinner.

I baked the squash first, with some whole garlic cloves and small boiling onions.  Then I puréed it with the garlic and onions and started adding stuff, tasting after every addition and stopping just when it was juuuuuust right.  I was really happy with it, and the Grill-Meister ate it two nights in a row.  Success!

The spices I used were simple:  nutmeg, white pepper, salt and cumin.  They were a perfect complement to the richness of the squash and the heavy cream.  With its hint of cumin, the finished product tastes slightly Southwestern, and I garnished it with a swirl of jalapeño-flavored olive oil and a handful of cilantro.  You could just as easily go with a plain olive oil and Italian parsley, or even mint.  Or get fancy with the garnish – I just saw a recipe that garnished butternut squash soup with chopped, crispy bacon.  Yum!

This creamy soup was a great main course the first time we had it, and worked really well in a soup and sandwich combo the next night.  And it definitely qualifies for a holiday meal.  We’re thinking of serving it as “soup shots” with an aperitif for Christmas dinner.

Ingredients (Serves 4 as a main course, 8 as a first course)

  • One medium/small butternut squash
  • 5 whole cloves of garlic, skins on
  • 4 small boiling onions, peeled and halved, or one small white onion, peeled and cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 3/4 cup water
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper (for the squash)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups chicken stock / broth (or vegetable stock if you want a vegetarian soup – but not water)
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Olive oil for drizzling (I like to use jalapeño-flavored oil)
  • Chopped cilantro (can substitute parsley, mint or other fresh herbs)

Note: like people, squash come in all different sizes, and the ingredient ratios in this recipe were perfect for my individual squash. Have some extra heavy cream and chicken or vegetable stock on hand in case your squash requires a bit more liquid, and be ready to adjust the seasonings.

Cooking Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cut the squash in half longwise and remove the seeds.  Cut in half again longwise.  Place cut side up in an ovenproof casserole dish, and then arrange the garlic and onion around the squash.  Drizzle olive oil over the squash, garlic and onions, then season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Pour water into the casserole dish and place in the oven.  Bake for about 40 minutes until you can pierce the squash easily with a fork, but before it is completely mushy.  Remove from oven, cover with foil and let cool slowly.  (This step can be done up to 3 days ahead of time; refrigerate until you are ready to finish the soup.)

Remove the skins from the garlic.  Use a spoon to scoop the squash out of its skin and place in a blender or food processor along with the baked onion and garlic and puree until very smooth.  Add all other ingredients and blend again until well mixed.

Transfer the soup to a saucepan on the stove and heat over medium/low heat for about 15 minutes; it will thicken slightly.  Taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary.

Serve hot; drizzle with olive oil and garnish with cilantro.

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After baking
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Pureed squash, garlic and onions
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After the addition of stock and cream
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Heat thoroughly
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The result is creamy, comforting cool-weather soup (my presentation is a bit crude here, but I was in a hurry to get to the eating part!)

 

Copyright 2016, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Pot Luck Perfect: In-the-Moment Lentil Soup

Let’s Have a Work Party at My House!

I am fortunate to work with an amazingly talented group of people.  They are truly awesome.  We’re a global organization and recently got together in Houston for more than a week of meetings to plan our output for the year.  I thought a party at my house would be a great way to increase team bonding and provide entertainment for our traveling colleagues on the Saturday night of their 10-day trip –  but, alas, I had no time to spend on cooking and preparation.  Pot luck to the rescue!  We can all share the load.

I have to confess – I absolutely love pot luck meals and the randomness of the dishes that arrive.

Pot Luck is Culinary Folk Art

Folk Art FoodI think it’s like culinary folk art to arrange last-minute purchased goodies next to someone’s very best dish, that recipe that was handed down for three generations from Aunt Lena because it’s that good.  The serving table is the blank palate against which the food offerings will create an artsy-titchy ensemble of choices. I like the bizarre mix of cuisines and living dangerously, knowing there’s a possibility there will be seven kinds of hummus, or we’ll end up with only desserts.  Pot lucks are fun.  They are kind of like a smorgasbord, but more random.

The Europeans Took It to a New Level

Because some of my colleagues are from Europe, I included a definition of pot luck in the invitation:  “a meal or party in which each of the guests contributes a dish”, called it a Pot Luck Open House and declared that Glover Gardens would be open for business at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday night.

At precisely 5:00 p.m., a taxi rolled up an deposited the four Europeans on the team on my doorstep.  They were the first to arrive and breezed into the kitchen with overflowing grocery bags, tons of energy and a plan:  they were going to make their dish in my kitchen.  They scoffed at store-bought offerings and had purchased all the ingredients to make a yummy lentil soup.  The soup’s accompaniment would be “Waiting Bread”, a delectable grilled garlic bread made by one of my Norwegian teammates which I had tasted before during a meal he and his wife hosted in Kongsberg, Norway last summer. (Oh, the memories!)

I was absolutely delighted.  Awesome colleagues collaborating on a dish at my house? What a great way to bring together two things that are so important in my life – my weekday focus, which is collaboration with teammates, and my weekend pastime, a love of food, cooking, kitchens and all things in between.

We situated our European chefs in the outdoor kitchen, which overlooks the pool, and proceeded to arm them with equipment.  The requests came fast and furious – three cutting boards, three sharp knives, bowls, a big pot, a peeler, a can opener, a sieve.  (This sparked a cross-cultural discussion about “being divided by a common language” – for me, a sieve has very fine holes and is used to push something course through it to make it finer.  What my Scottish colleague really wanted was what I think of as a strainer.  We had a good laugh about this.)

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The Europeans were the first to arrive and breezed into the kitchen with overflowing grocery bags, tons of energy, and a plan to create a homemade masterpiece. The ringleader is wearing the chef’s hat.

The results of the culinary collaboration were wonderful:  my colleagues had a great time, provided entertainment for the other guests, and produced a wonderful lentil soup, along with the “Waiting Bread”.  The bread was a huge hit.  As each batch was done, it was circulated through the party on a platter and those warm, garlicky crunchy slices were snatched up immediately.

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Fortunately for me, a little soup was left over.  What a treat on the day after a big party.

The Recipes

Here’s the lentil soup recipe they used, from a blog called Cookie and Kate:  Best Lentil Soup.  It’s a vegan recipe which was made “as written”, and it was hugely flavorful.  It tasted like it had simmered for days.

I didn’t get the recipe for the Waiting Bread, but have watched its creation twice, and here’s my attempt to capture it.  It’s basically grilled garlic bread.  The amounts are just my sketchy guesses.

  • Several loaves of French bread or sourdough, cut into in 3/4 inch slices
  • 2-3 tablespoons of pressed garlic (8-10 cloves)
  • 2 sticks of softened butter
  • Additional spice to your taste – there was a little Zippy Southwest by the grill and it was added sparingly to the bread

Heat a gas or charcoal grill to very hot.  Combine the garlic and butter in a small bowl and mix well.  Spread onto both sides of the bread and then grill both sides until the edges are crunchy. Serve hot, while waiting for the rest of your meal (thus the name “Waiting Bread”.)

More Potluck?

Click here for a humorous blog post about potluck rules.

Pot Luck or Potluck?

Well gee, I published this post before I realized that I had approach potluck in two ways:  as one word and as two.  Apparently, one word is proper, but it’s too late to change my title in which I listed it as two, because it would change the link.  Sigh.  However, now we know!  The original mention of this concept was “pot-luck” or literally, “luck of the pot”.

Your Potluck?

I’d love to hear from you in a comment on this post about your own potluck experiences.