Although my mother served countless vegetables at her table, she never cooked cauliflower. She would coat eggplant or okra in cornmeal, then fry it until golden and crisp, or cook turnips greens or lady peas slowly with bits of bacon for extra flavor. Never, though, did she turn to this member of the cruciferous family for inspiration. I, on the other hand, continue to marvel at the inventive ways a cook can use this assertive vegetable. I’ve sautéed the florets with leeks and mushrooms as a topping for buttered pasta, incorporated them into creamy gratins sprinkled with cheese, and featured them often in soups.
The latter is by far my favorite way to use this extra healthy vegetable that belongs to a food group that includes broccoli, kale, collard greens, and cabbage. Among my creations there has been a curried cauliflower potage, another topped with Gruyère and crushed hazelnuts, and my recent spicy cauliflower soup with crispy chorizo, which you’ll find in this post.
Cauliflower Soup with Crispy Chorizo, Lime, and Cilantro
1 tbsp olive oil
6 oz chorizo, cut into 1/4-in dice (Use Spanish-style chorizo in casing, not loose Mexican-style chorizo)
2 cups (2 to 3 medium) chopped leeks, white and light green parts only
2 tsp chopped garlic
8 cups (about 1 1/2 lb or use packaged florets) cauliflower florets
5 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp grated lime zest
Freshly ground black pepper
Toasted breadcrumbs (recipe follows)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
In a heavy pot over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil until hot. Add the chorizo and cook, stirring, until slightly crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Set aside. Reduce the heat to medium and add the leeks to the drippings in the pan. Cook, stirring often, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, one minute more. Add the cauliflower, broth, and 1 teaspoon salt.
Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until the cauliflower is very tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Purée the soup in batches in a food processor, blender, or food mill. (Or use an immersion blender to purée the soup in the pot.)
Whisk together the sour cream and lime zest and stir half the mixture into the soup. Season the soup with more salt if needed and with 1/4 teaspoon or more black pepper. (Soup can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cook to this stage, then cool, cover, and refrigerate; cover and refrigerate the sautéed chorizo and the sour cream separately. Reheat the soup, stirring often, over medium heat.)
Ladle the soup into bowls. Garnish each serving with a dollop of the remaining sour cream. Serve with small bowls of chorizo, toasted breadcrumbs, and cilantro for sprinkling.
Toasted Bread Crumbs
1/2 loaf peasant or country bread (sourdough works particularly well) with crusts removed
1 tbsp olive or canola oil
In a food processor, process enough bread slices to make 1 cup coarse crumbs.
Heat the oil in a medium, heavy frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add the crumbs and cook, stirring constantly, until they are crisp and rich golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. (Bread crumbs can be stored in a plastic self-sealing bag and refrigerated for up to one week.)
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