Roasted Cream of Cauliflower Soup

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Cauliflower Soup
Roasted Cream of Cauliflower Soup

One of my all-time favorite soups is made with the most unlikely vegetable – cauliflower. I first had this soup on a cold, rainy night in a small café in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, many years ago. We were looking for light fare and cauliflower was the soup of the day. I must admit, the thoughts of cauliflower in soup was not at all appealing to me but the menu was limited so this is what was ordered. What came to the table was, without a doubt, one of the most palate-pleasing soups I’ve ever had! Rich and creamy with a sprinkle of nutmeg on top and served with a multi-grain bread, this became a soup that I just had to figure out how to make on my own.  So I set about figuring out just what ingredients would have been used to enhance the somewhat blah cauliflower. My recipe is a good replica of that first cauliflower soup I so enjoyed.

Cauliflower Soup
Roasted Cream of Cauliflower Soup

Over the years, I’ve worked on my recipe for the soup. The first thing I do is roast the cauliflower that I sprinkle with nutmeg.  Of all the spices, I find nutmeg complements the cauliflower best. Roasting vegetables deepens their flavor and this, of course, contributes to the overall flavor of the soup. To make life simpler, rather than say the recipe calls for one head of cauliflower (which comes in different sizes), or x cups of florets, I’ve measured the exact weight of cauliflower my recipe takes for optimal results.  This measurement is taken after the main core stalk of the cauliflower has been removed and discarded. For roasting, I break off chunks of the florets instead of breaking off each individual floret.  The small florets would burn in the roasting process and there is a difference between roasting and burnt offerings! It’s important to stir and turn the cauliflower every 10-12 minutes as it roasts to prevent burning and to ensure even roasting of all sides of the florets.  I also find that loosely mashing the roasted cauliflower with a potato masher makes the vegetable easier to purée evenly.

I use a combination of leeks, onion, and garlic to flavor the soup. The addition of a small amount of fresh fennel does add a layer of flavor complexity to this soup but its addition is optional. When I am making this soup at a time when I have fresh fennel in the garden, I use it but I would not buy an expensive fennel bulb out of season for the small amount the recipe calls for.

The base for this soup is chicken stock. I use the liquid chicken bouillon concentrate to make the stock but homemade or canned/boxed stock can certainly be used.

Cool both the cauliflower and the soup mixture to room temperature before puréeing it. I recommend puréeing the mixture in small batches to ensure the mixture is very smooth and free of any lumps or chunks of cauliflower, leeks, or onions.

I also recommend the milk be at room temperature for about 20-30 minutes or so before blending it into the puréed cauliflower mixture to avoid the milk curdling. Use whole milk, not fat-reduced or skim, for this soup – it’s meant to be luxurious, velvety, and soothing to the palate. In fact, a small amount of cream can be substituted for part of the milk in the recipe. This soup freezes well (yes, it really does) but whole milk or a blend of milk/cream needs to be used when freezing cream-based soups successfully. Soups made with fat-reduced or skim milk do not freeze and reheat well as the ingredients tend to separate.

Once the milk is added (slowly) to the puréed mixture, it’s important not to boil it – all it needs is a slow, gentle heating to the point that the cheese will melt.  My recipe calls for a blend of three flavorful cheeses – cheddar, mozzarella, and parmesan.  I buy the bag of pre-shredded cheese with this mixture in it and these three cheeses do complement, not only each other well, but the cauliflower, too.  Stir the soup over low heat just until the cheeses have all melted and blended into the soup. Never boil this soup.

The soup may be served in small appetizer-sized portions for the soup course of a dinner or, in larger portions as a main meal for lunch or a light supper.  Serve this gorgeous-colored soup with homemade biscuits, crusty rolls, rustic or French bread.

Cream of Cauliflower Soup
Roasted Cream of Cauliflower Soup

Roasted Cream of Cauliflower Soup

Ingredients:

1¼ lb cauliflower florets, chopped into chunks of about 7-9 florets   (weighed after large core stalk removed)
2-3 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper

3 tbsp butter
2/3 cup sliced leeks (white and light green parts only)
1/3 cup onion, finely chopped
¾ oz fresh fennel, finely minced (optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp flour

2¼ cups chicken stock
2 cups whole milk (at room temperature for 20-30 minutes)
Salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup shredded three-cheese blend (cheddar, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheeses)

Method:

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with tin foil and spray with cooking oil.

In large bowl, toss the cauliflower florets, oil, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.  Spread cauliflower in single layer on prepared baking sheet.  Roast for approximately 40-45 minutes or until cauliflower is very soft, stirring and turning the cauliflower every 10-12 minutes for even roasting.  Cool slightly.  Break florets into small pieces and mash loosely with a potato masher to break down the florets for easier puréeing.

In medium-sized stock pot, melt the butter.  Sauté the leeks, onion, fennel, and garlic over medium heat until leeks and fennel are softened (but not browned), about 7-8 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to blend. Slowly whisk in the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer 2-3 minutes or until mixture is thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.  Purée cooled mixture along with the cauliflower in small batches in food processor or blender until smooth.

Return puréed mixture to stockpot and, over medium-low heat, slowly stir or whisk in the milk.  Add salt and pepper to taste. When mixture is heated (do not boil), stir in 1 cup of three-cheese blend.  Heat, stirring constantly, just until cheese is melted (do not boil).

Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with roasted cauliflower florets.

Yield: 6-7 servings

Roasted Cream of Cauliflower Soup

Yield: 6-7 servings

A rich and velvety-textured cream-based soup made with roasted cauliflower and a blend of three cheeses.

Ingredients

  • 1¼ lb cauliflower florets, chopped into chunks of about 7-9 florets (weighed after large core stalk removed)
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2/3 cup sliced leeks (white and light green parts only)
  • 1/3 cup onion, finely chopped
  • ¾ oz fresh fennel, finely minced (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 2¼ cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups whole milk (at room temperature for 20-30 minutes)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup shredded three-cheese blend (cheddar, mozzarella, and parmesan cheeses)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with tin foil and spray with cooking oil.
  3. In large bowl, toss the cauliflower florets, oil, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Spread cauliflower in single layer on prepared baking sheet. Roast for approximately 40-45 minutes or until cauliflower is very soft, stirring and turning the cauliflower every 10-12 minutes for even roasting. Cool slightly. Break florets into small pieces and mash loosely with a potato masher to break down the florets for easier puréeing.
  4. In medium-sized stock pot, melt the butter. Sauté the leeks, onion, fennel, and garlic over medium heat until leeks and fennel are softened (but not browned), about 7-8 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to blend. Slowly whisk in the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer 2-3 minutes or until mixture is thickened, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Purée cooled mixture along with the cauliflower in small batches in food processor or blender until smooth.
  5. Return puréed mixture to stockpot and, over medium-low heat, slowly stir or whisk in the milk. Add salt and pepper to taste. When mixture is heated (do not boil), stir in 1 cup of three-cheese blend. Heat, stirring constantly, just until cheese is melted (do not boil).
  6. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with roasted cauliflower florets.
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Cauliflower Soup
Roasted Cream of Cauliflower Soup

For the recipe for the biscuits in the photos, click here.

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