If you’re having a tough week, a pot of soup always helps!
I am not quite sure how, but I ended up with both a large and small cauliflower in my refrigerator this week, and while there are indeed a thousand uses for this vegetable these days from pizza crust to stand-ins for mashed potatoes or rice, I decided to make a hearty soup. It has been a difficult week, and a pot of simmering soup was good medicine.
My husband had a cardiac event on Friday (he is home now with a new stint and doing well), and so heart-healthy comfort food is on the menu!
Thank goodness for a stocked pantry!
I already had the cauliflower in abundance, and everything else was in the pantry waiting to help out, including the stale bread for the croutons! Cauliflower tends to be pretty bland on its own, so lots of aromatics and a few flavorful garnishes turned this from ho-hum to really tasty. The sundried tomatoes and chilis add a lot of flavor and some texture, and the croutons, a lovely little crunch with its own unique offering.
The other head of cauliflower? This became cauliflower mashed potato topping the shepherdess pie the next night!
Cauliflower Soup with Sundried Tomato Chili Oil and Anchovy Croutons
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 leeks, chopped
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large head cauliflower, chopped
- 1 large potato, peeled and chopped
- ½ tsp. cumin
- ¼ tsp. cinnamon
- Few grates of nutmeg
- Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, optional
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 6 cups water or vegetable stock
- 1 can light or full-fat coconut milk
Heat a stock pot over medium high and add the oil, leeks, onion, and celery. Sauté until they are soft, but not browned. Add the garlic and spices and continue stirring until fragrant.
Add the cauliflower (any attached leaves as well), potato, and water, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until vegetables are tender.
Using an immersion blender, or work in batches with a standard blender, and purée until smooth. Add the coconut milk.
Plate and top with anchovy croutons and sun-dried tomato chili oil, below, or any flavorful chili oil.
Sundried Tomato and Ancho Chili Oil
- 2 Ancho Chilis
- ½ cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- 1 tsp. coriander seeds
- 1 tsp. caraway seeds
- 2 tsp. paprika
- 1 tsp. maple or agave syrup
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- Juice of a lemon
- ¼ cup sherry vinegar
- ½ cup olive oil
- Salt to taste
Cut the ends off the ancho chilis and shake out the seeds. Toast the chilis in a dry, heavy saucepan, cast iron is great here. Don’t let them burn. Place them in a bowl with the sundried tomatoes and cover with a cup of boiling water. Let this set for a half hour.
To the same toasting pan add the cumin, coriander, and caraway seeds and toast them as well. Crush them with a mortar and pestle or with the back of a heavy saucepan. Set aside.
Once the chilis and tomatoes are rehydrated, drain and place in a food processor. Add the seeds, paprika, syrup, garlic, lemon, and vinegar. Pulse gently until everything is broken up, but you want some texture here, not a puree.
Stir mixture into the olive oil, add salt to taste, bring to a simmer, turn off the heat and let sit for a half hour.
These are highly flavorful, and quite tasty as a little nibble. Adjust the anchovies to your liking, start with a few and add more if you want more flavor. You can also make this flavorful oil vegetarian by omitting the anchovies and bumping up the garlic by a clove.
- 4 or 5 anchovies, plus some if their oil
- ¼ cup fruity olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 tsp. grainy mustard
- 2 or 3 sprigs thyme
- 4 slices of sturdy, whole-grain bread, stale is good!
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Chop up the anchovies and place them in a sauté pan with a teaspoon of their oil, the olive oil, the garlic, mustard, and thyme sprigs.
Bring to a simmer, and slowly cook for three minutes or so, until the garlic is fragrant and the anchovies have broken down.
Tear the bread into crouton-sized pieces of choice. Irregular shapes have more interest and little craggy areas to crisp up. Place in a large bowl and pour the oil mixture over all. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, mix it until the bread pieces are well coated.
Bake for about 10 minutes, turn, then continue baking until crispy and brown. Keep an eye on them! Store in an air-tight container.
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