Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Spooky Cauliflower Soup

You might have noticed that I've been doing a lot of recipes lately that are adapted from cookbooks.

Here's the deal.

I have a stacks of cookbooks here that need to be put away. Before I do that, though, I want to make a recipe or two or three from each of them.

Some of those books came from publishers, some came from other people. Some I bought new and some are from garage sales. But I need to whittle down the giant pile of books before I acquire any more. It just has to be done.

Meanwhile, I need some blog posts.

And I'm short of time. I've got deadlines rapidly approaching for the cookbook, and I'm knee-deep in dough. The bread kind, not the money kind. Bread dough for the bread book. It's taking my time and a lot of my brain power.

So ... it's easier and somewhat more reliable to adapt a cookbook recipe than it is to start from scratch and create a recipe. When I create a recipe, it's not always blogworthy. It might take a few tries to get the recipe right and the photos right. And even then I might not think it's good enough to post.

But when I make a recipe from a cookbook, it should work. So there's a better chance it will be blogworthy.

Spooooooky food.
This time around, I wanted to make a cauliflower soup. I just got some pretty purple cauliflower and some pretty gold cauliflower from Frieda's Specialty Produce, along with some other really fun (and spooky) food.

I thought it would be fun to make soup from one color of cauliflower and then cook the other cauliflower and use it as garnish as the soup.

So ... I know how to make cauliflower soup. I didn't really need a recipe, but I looked through several books, anyway. No luck. I guess it's not that popular.

As a matter of fact, none of the books I looked at included cauliflower in the index at all. The only place I found it was in The New Food Lover's Companion, a book that's a resource about food rather than a cookbook.

So, what does it say about cauliflower?
In Mark Twain's words, "cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education." The name of this elegant member of the cabbage family comes from the latin caulies ("stalk") and floris ("flower"). Cauliflower comes in three basic colors: white (the most popular and readily available), green and purple (a vibrant violet that turns pale green when cooked). All cauliflower is composed of bunches of tiny florets on clusters of stalks. Some white varieties have a purple or greenish tinge. The entire flower portion (called the "curd") is edible. The green leaves at the base are also edible, but take longer to cook and have a stronger flavor than the curd. Choose a firm cauliflower with compact florets; the leaves should be crisp and green with no sign of yellowing. The size of the head doesn't affect the quality. Refrigerate raw cauliflower, tightly wrapped, for 3 to 5 days; cooked for 1 to 3 days. To use separate cauliflower heads into florets and wash. Cauliflower can be eaten raw or cooked in a number of way including boiling, baking, and sauteing. Whole cauliflower heads may also be cooked in one piece. Adding a tablespoon of lemon juice or one cup of milk to the cooking water will prevent discoloration. Cauliflower, which is a cruciferous vegetable, is high in vitamin C and is a fair source of iron.

Well, then, that's a lot about cauliflower, but a drop in the bucket for the whole book - this thing is over 900 pages long. Lots and lots and lots of information about food.

Interestingly, the section about cauliflower didn't include anything about the orange cauliflower. And, the purple cauliflower I had didn't fade to green. It did lose some of the bright color and ended up more of a blue-purple than the reddish purple it was before I cooked it. But that's fine. It's still a crazy color. And I'll bet there will be more crazy colors coming at us in the future - but I guess that's what it's like in the food world - breeders are coming up with new varieties all the time.

It interesting to read about cauliflower, but it didn't get me any closer to my soupy dreams, so I went into the kitchen and had some fun.

The great thing about making soup is that the flavors can be adjusted easily - as long as you don't add too much of something. Not like baking where you have to get it right before it goes into the oven because you can't taste and adjust a cake as it cooks. And then you have to wait until it's fully baked and then wait some more until it cools.

I was really happy with this soup. Next time, I might try using the purple for the soup and the gold for the accent. I went with golden soup mostly because that was the larger of the the two cauliflowers I received, and I figured that I wanted more soup than garnish.

Spooky Cauliflower Soup

1 medium-large head of golden cauliflower
1 medium potato
1 tablespoon Better than Bouillon chicken base (optional)
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon salt (more, as needed)
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 cup milk, half-and-half, or heavy cream
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 small head purple cauliflower

Remove the leaves from the cauliflower and cut in into chunks. Add to a large saucepan or small stockpot or other heavy bottomed pot. Peel the potato and add it to the pot.

Fill the pot with water to just cover the vegetables. Add the Better than Bullion (if using), butter, salt, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Cook on medium heat - the water should be simmering but not boiling - until the vegetables are tender. Add water, as needed, during the cooking to keep the vegetables barely covered.

Meanwhile, cut the purple cauliflower into florets and cook until tender - but not mushy - in boiling salted water. Drain and set aside.

Add the milk (or half-and-half, or cream) and blend the soup with a hand blender until smooth. If the soup is too thick for your taste add more milk or water to thin it - we like thick soups, so I left it fairly thick.

Add the lemon juice and white pepper and stir to combine - or blend again with the hand blender. Taste for seasoning and add more salt or other seasonings, as desired.

Serve with the purple cauliflower florets as a garnish. I served it in black mini-Dutch ovens for a more Halloweenish look.

If you want more garnishes, a little bit of grated cheese would be nice. If you think it needs some green - also a spooky color - some chopped parsley, chives, or scallions would be fine.