Miriam is having a house warming/birthday party this weekend. She asked me to bring a cold soup for the event. However, she does not want any red soups, like gazpacho, because she now has a white carpet. I could do vichyssoise, but that would be too common. I thought about a cold white bean soup, but Chris is on a low carb diet right now. I looked on-line, and nothing I saw really spoke to me.
Note: Over the course of the week, I have been scanning the WordPress Reader recipe topic. Since I decided to make this soup, at least three recipes for cauliflower soup have appeared. I guess “great mimes think alike.”
Last week I made pickled cauliflower and Jan told me how much she liked it. If I replaced the leeks in vichyssoise with cauliflower it would be a step in the right direction. Cauliflower by itself though is a rather bland vegetable, perhaps some peppery watercress would pair well with it. A sofrito of onions, carrots and celery to act as a base. A bit of garlic (I simply cannot cook without garlic) and a potato to provide the thickening starch. I always use a starchy Russet for a soup that I am planning to blend. Waxy potatoes, and even Yukon Golds, tend to turn a bit gluey if you over work them.
For the herbs and spices I am trying some marjoram, white pepper, a touch of Indian chilli and a bit of nutmeg to finish. Finally, some cream or milk to adjust the soup to the right consistence.
After the soup was almost done it still tasted flat. There was plenty of “bite” from the pepper and chili, but something was missing. When I am in this situation, I take out a spoonful of whatever I am making and add something to the spoonful to try it out.
I first though, “Perhaps some parmesan might be the missing element.” One taste and, “No, definitely not.” I went to my spice cabinet—Coriander? No, that would just add more heat. Oregano? No, There were already enough herbs in the mix. More salt helped some, but some powered ginger was finally the note I was looking for.
Since this dish is going to be served to strangers, I am going to experiment on my family first. Depending on its reception on the home front I may adjust it a bit before Saturday.
After the experimental dinner: Jan liked the soup, but she thought the Indian chili power over powered the vegetable flavors. I usually like this chili for its strong flavor, but for this dish it simply did not work. For this weekend I will leave out the chili, the white pepper alone will provide the bite.
The day of the party: I decided to get rid of the watercress altogether. It really was not distinctive enough to compete with the other flavors in the soup and was leaving the dish a bit muddled. I decided to try using arugula instead. Arugula has a much more distinctive taste. I first added a loosely packed cup. After tasting the results, I then decided that the soup would tolerate a second cup. I added the arugula a few minutes before blending, so that the arugula was only lightly cooked from the heat of the cooling soup.
Karl’s Cold Cauliflower and Arugula Soup
2 Tbs. butter (or olive oil)
1 medium sweet onion, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
1 head cauliflower, coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic, smashed
1 Russet potato, diced
3 tsp. marjoram
2 tsp. ginger, powered or 1 tsp. fresh
1 tsp. white pepper
2 cans low sodium chicken broth (vegetable broth for Vegan)
2 cups arugula, loosely packed
1½ tsp. Kosher salt
1-2 cups milk or cream
½ tsp. nutmeg, fresh grated
1. In a large pot, sauté the onions in the butter until just translucent.
2. Add the carrots and celery and continue cooking for 3 minutes.
3. Add the cauliflower and sauté for another 3 minutes.
4. Add the garlic and potatoes. Continue cooking stirring frequently.
5. Add the marjoram, and white pepper, sauté for one more minute.
6. Add the chicken broth and cover the pot. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
7. Add most of the arugula and simmer for 5 minutes more.
Tip: Reserve a few attractive leaves of arugula for garnish.
8. Blend the soup in batches until smooth and return it to the pot.
Tip: You may run the soup through a sieve to make sure that there are no lumps left.
9. Re-warm the soup and add the salt, milk/cream, and nutmeg to taste.
Tip: You can control the richness and thickness of the soup with the milk or cream. For a rich thick soup use one cup of cream, add more for a thinner soup. If you have reasons to avoid fat, add whole milk, or even 1% milk, until you reach your desired consistency.
10. You may serve the soup warm, garnished with the arugula leaves, or you may serve it chilled, like I intend to.