Curried Cauliflower Soup

Mark Twain described cauliflower as cabbage with a college education. He had a point. This ivory, globe-shaped vegetable has a more subtle taste than its humble counterpart. My guess is that Twain would have liked the way cauliflower is used in the winter soup recipe that follows.

Florets, cut from a large head, are simmered along with some sautéed leeks in an aromatic broth. It’s this flavorful stock scented with assertive seasonings of pungent, sweet, and hot spices that make this potage distinctive. Pureed, the resulting mixture is creamy and smooth. In a blind taste test, you might not recognize the cauliflower immediately, but the vegetable is there playing an important background role.

Besides being easy and quick to assemble, this dish is low in fat—perfect for post-holiday calorie counters! Add a mixed greens salad and some warm, crusty bread to round out your menu.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped leeks, (white and light green parts only)
8 cups cauliflower florets (cut from a 3- pound cauliflower)
6 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more if needed
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Scant 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tsp lemon juice
4 teaspoons chopped cilantro

Toasted Curried Bread Crumbs (recipe follows)

1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot (with a lid) over medium heat. When hot add the leeks and sauté, stirring, until just softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add cauliflower florets, stock, salt, curry powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, and cinnamon. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot. Cook at a simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes.

2. Puree the soup in small batches in a food processor or food mill. Or use an immersion blender and puree in the pot. Stir in the lemon juice. If soup is too thick, thin with a few tablespoons of broth. Taste and add more salt if needed. (Soup can be prepared 1 day ahead; cool, cover, and refrigerate. Reheat, stirring often, over medium heat. )

3. Ladle the soup into bowls. Garnish each serving with a sprinkle of cilantro and toasted bread crumbs. Pass extra bread crumbs in a small bowl.  Serves 4.

Toasted Curried Bread Crumbs
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp curry powder
1 cup fresh bread crumbs (preferably made from a good artisan loaf with crusts removed)

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and the curry, then warm the oil in a medium, heavy skillet over medium heat. When  hot, add the bread crumbs and stir constantly until the crumbs are crisp and rich golden brown, about 3 minutes. (Bread crumbs can be prepared 2 days ahead; Store in a plastic self-sealing bag at room temperature.)

© Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2011

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