Saturday, January 14, 2012

Simple, Subtle, and Surprisingly Delightful: Orange-Scented Cauliflower Soup

Tonight I got to go on a date with my husband and our friend Rita. It was so nice. She's an old friend of ours. She's known MC for at least twelve years and I appropriated her as my own friend almost ten years ago. (Which is nuts, btw - ten years!? Where does the time go?) We've always gotten along well but our friendship took on a new level of intimacy when we became mothers at about the same time. (New mothers, you see, have everything in common.) I see Rita often, always with our two toddler girls in tow. Rare, however, is the opportunity for MC to spend time with her, and even rarer is the opportunity to talk sans children, while eating delicious food that we didn't prepare ourselves, accompanied by wine. Tonight was a treat. As visits with dear old friends often are, it was just nice. Mellow, easy, and comforting.

Sort of like this soup.

I've posted another recipe for cauliflower soup on this website. It was a cauliflower bisque with a complex, flavorful acidity reminiscent of buttermilk (but it was vegan). When I wrote about that bisque I noted that I'm not a huge cauliflower fan but the complex flavors in that soup sort of defied - masked? - any cauliflower-ness, and I even felt when I posted about that soup that it could have been made - improved? - with a different vegetable.

This soup is simpler and more decidedly cauliflowery. And yet I loved it. Not sure if the butter and citrus brought out a new dimension of flavor in the cauliflower than I've encountered before, or if I've merely developed a taste for cauliflower in the last year. Regardless, this soup is just lovely. The egg yolks make it custardy and rich, and the addition of corn starch as a thickener gives it a velvety texture that's hard to master in a typical blended soup. The citrus tempers the richness, giving it a brighter flavor and drawing out the natural sweetness of the cauliflower. Round it out with a bit of salt and a big knob of butter and, well, you've got yourself some perfect mid-winter comfort food.


Orange-Scented Cauliflower Soup
Adapted from I Know How to Cook
Yield: 4 servings

One medium head of cauliflower (about 1.5-2 lbs), broken into florets
One orange, juiced
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 egg yolks
2 heaping tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper, to taste

Optional garnishes: freshly grated nutmeg or a dash of paprika

Place broth, 2 cups of water, and orange rind into a large pot and bring to boil. Add the cauliflower and cook until softened, about 15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the cauliflower and place in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Reserve the cooking liquid in a separate container and discard the orange rind. Pour the cauliflower into the soup pot and stir in cornstarch and then the orange juice. Add back to the pot enough cooking liquid to make a desirable soup consistency (I used 4 cups; err on the side of too much liquid as the soup will thicken upon cooking). Whisk together and bring mixture to boil. Simmer gently for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and whisk in egg yolks until fully incorporated, and then stir in the butter. Salt and pepper to taste.

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