Wednesday, April 5, 2017

creamy herb cashew cheese

this cashew cheese is the first non-smoothie concoction i've tried with my new vitamix so far. silky-smooth and savory, it's a nice raw vegan alternative to include on a cheese or appetizer platter, spread on flatbreads or toast, or layer into a sandwich. and so simple to make.

soak some raw cashews for a few hours, drain, and blend them up with fresh lemon juice, a little shoyu for salt and depth (you can also use miso paste), dried italian herbs, a dash of tabasco, and chile flakes.

i used aleppo pepper, a gentle chile variety that's fruity, a little smoky, and mildly spicy. you can play around with the herb/spice combinations...herbes de provence, cumin and coriander, thyme and rosemary, smoked paprika, chipotle powder. make it as spicy or mild as you like. i'd also like to try using miso and maybe some nutritional flakes next time for a funkier, cheesier flavor.

right after blending, the cheese is very soft and spreadable - like a thick hummus. you could serve it right away as a spread or even a dip with vegetable spears and pita chips. i wanted to firm it up a bit and wrapped the cashew mixture in cheesecloth, letting it sit in the fridge overnight in a strainer set over a bowl. after about 12 hours it had the consistency of a soft chevre, drier but still creamy and spreadable.

creamy cashew cheese with herbs and aleppo pepper

1 cup raw cashews, soaked 6 hours (any longer and they may get slimy)
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp dried italian herb blend (oregano, basil, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, sage)
dash of tabasco
pinch of chile flakes
1 to 1-1/2 tsp shoyu, tamari, or miso (to taste)
 a few grinds of black pepper
1-2 Tbsp water, if needed, for blending

combine all ingredients in container of a high-powered blender. process on high for a few minutes until cashews are completely blended and mixture is creamy. may need to scrape down the sides a few times and/or add a little water to ensure that the nuts blend evenly.

enjoy as is, or wrap in cheesecloth, tie with kitchen twine, and strain for 12 to 24 hours for a firmer, drier consistency. to serve, unwrap and invert the cheese onto a plate.

Aduki Miso Soup with Wakame + Shiitakes

Can one blame a prolonged blog hibernation on a puppy? Probably not, but I will try anyway. A tiny furball of craziness came into our lives 9 months ago, and it's been a whirlwind ever since. House-training a puppy on the sidewalks of nyc, without the benefit of a backyard, has been interesting, to say the least. Quite an experience. Some people love the puppy stage, but I'm relieved that our little guy just turned one and is (just about) a real dog. He's not quite full grown yet, so the vet says he gets to keep his balls for another 3 months (Jammer says yay!). 

Well -- excuses aside, let's talk about the soup pictured up top. This steaming bowl of yumminess is your immune system's best friend. With all the bugs going around during the winter and early spring, I made this on the regular. Along with daily herbal infusions and doses of a most potent echinacea tincture, I managed to stay healthy despite getting coughed, sneezed, and sputtered upon at work, on the subway, and in line at Fairway. I love this soup for breakfast, lunch, or dinner -- you could also simmer up a big pot and eat it for all three meals for a day or two: a superfood miso soup "cleanse," if you will.

Back in December I ordered a pound of whole, dried shiitake mushrooms from an herb supplier. Sounded reasonable enough at the time, but apparently my powers of estimation were off that day. Because a pound of dried mushrooms is A LOT of mushrooms. Turned out to be fortuitous, though, as that 'shroom overload has inspired many pots of delicious soups, stews and broths over the last few months. Throwing a handful of these umami-bombs into any veggie-based broth changes everything. 

In a nutshell, this soup's got it all: probiotic-packed miso, immunity-boosting shiitakes, burdock, and astragalus root, iodine- and calcium-rich wakame, and of course garlic and ginger. Health in a bowl. With at least a few more chilly days headed our way this spring, it's a good recipe to have on hand. Play with it and make it yours.

Aduki Miso Soup with Wakame + Shiitakes

Aduki miso has become my favorite miso paste - so richly flavored and complex, it really is a "meaty" alternative to a meat-based broth. Chickpea miso also works well here.

Yield: approx. 2 quarts
Total time: 1 hour

Small handful dried burdock root (about 2 tablespoons)
5-6 slices dried astragalus root
6 cups water
8 dried shiitake mushrooms (or 1/2 cup dried, sliced shiitakes)
Small piece of dried kombu (about 1-inch square)
1/4 cup brown rice
Shoyu or tamari, to taste
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced (about 1-1/2 cups)
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 shallot or small onion, thinly sliced
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
2 tablespoons dried wakame
1/4 cup aduki miso paste (or miso of your choice)
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Sesame seeds or gomasio, to finish

cheesecloth + kitchen twine, or a bouquet garni bag

Combine burdock root and asparagus in cheesecloth or bouquet garni bag. Transfer to a large pot and add shiitakes, kombu, brown rice. Cover with water and add a splash of shoyu or tamari. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove shiitakes from pot, slice caps thinly and return to pot. Discard tough stems or save for making stock.

Add sweet potato, garlic, shallot and ginger to the pot. Simmer, covered, until sweet potato and brown rice are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

Place wakame in a bowl and cover with 1 cup of water. Soak until rehydrated, 5 to 10 minutes. Drain (house plants love the soaking liquid). Add wakame to soup and simmer 5 minutes more. 

Take pot off the heat. Remove bouquet garni and squeeze to get all the good stuff from the burdock and astragalus. Discard. 

Ladle 1 cup of broth into a separate bowl; whisk in miso paste until dissolved. Add miso broth back to the soup pot. Season with lemon juice to taste. Ladle into bowls and garnish with sesame seeds or gomasio.

To reheat leftover soup, heat gently over a low flame until the soup just reaches a simmer (avoid boiling miso)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Blueberry, Kale & Fennel Salad with Lemon-Ginger Dressing

Summer officially starts tomorrow, but my annual raw kick has been up and running for a while now. For the next couple of months my meals will revolve around the water-packed, cooling foods growing in abundance this season. 

Leafy greens, crunchy vegetables like bell peppers, cucumbers, and fennel, and juicy summer fruits...they're soothing to the body and soul this time of year, plus they are also rich sources of the nutrients we need to stay energized in this season of movement and expansion. These summertime treats also provide ample amounts of water to rehydrate our bodies after a day spent outdoors in the heat -- or indoors under air conditioning, which also can have a drying effect on the body. 

My go-to salad this year features heaps of raw, leafy greens paired with seasonal fruits for satisfying sweetness and nuts for texture and protein. A new favorite rendition incorporates nutrient-packed kale, antioxidant-rich blueberries, cooling fennel, and crispy toasted almonds, all tied together with a light and bright lemon-ginger-honey vinaigrette that complements the salads main stars rather than covering them up. 
Kale is a good source of bone-strengthening calcium and vitamin K, immune-boosting vitamin C, blood-building iron, and a variety of phytonutrients that may reduce the risk of certain cancers. This dark leafy green is also rich in flavonoids, compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, and is one of the best plant sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, nutrients that help protect against macular degeneration, a leading cause of vision loss. 

A couple of tips for salads based on raw kale. First, it's important to start with good greens. At the market, select kale with smaller-sized leaves, which will be milder, sweeter, and more tender than older, larger leaves. Massaging kale with dressing is a great no-cook method that tenderizes the leaves and brings out their sweetness, while also aiding digestibility and preserving heat-sensitive nutrients, such as vitamin C. 

An added benefit of adding a raw kale salad to your meal is that, unlike delicate salad greens, already-dressed kale keeps beautifully overnight in the fridge. I like to eat the leftovers alongside scrambled eggs for breakfast (add some ripe avocado and I'm in heaven!) or stirred into a bowl of steamed rice or quinoa for a quick and light lunch or dinner.

One thing I especially love about this salad is that it's so versatile throughout the year. Mix it up through the seasons by including seasonal fresh or dried fruits in place of the blueberries: stone fruits such as peaches or plums, melon, apples or pears, dried currants, cherries, or apricots. Top with crumbled feta or goat cheese (or another protein of your choice) for a heartier salad that can be served as a main course. 

Kale Salad with Blueberries, Almonds & Lemon-Ginger Vinaigrette 
Serves 4
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes

1 bunch kale (curly kale or Lacinato/Tuscan kale are my favorites)
juice of 1 lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon honey (preferably raw; use maple syrup if you prefer)
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
fennel bulb, stalks and tough outer layer removed
cup fresh blueberries
cup almonds, toasted and roughly chopped (I used Marcona almonds)
sea salt and black pepper, to taste

1. Wash kale thoroughly. Remove stems and chop leaves into bite-sized pieces.

2. Whisk together lemon juice, honey, ginger, and olive oil in a large bowl. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

3. Add kale to bowl with vinaigrette. Massage kale with clean hands until the leaves begin to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside for 15 minutes.

4. Grate fennel using the rough side of a cheese grater. Add to bowl with kale and toss gently to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, if needed.

5. Garnish with blueberries and almonds before serving.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Red Rice with Roasted Fennel + Apricots

Enabled by the long stretches of watchful waiting that sourdough baking requires (the Tartine Bread method - try it!), I recently undertook a big pantry cleanout. Every box, bag, packet, and jar came out of the cabinets and was accordingly inspected, consolidated, and repackaged; the works. When all was said and done, I had transferred all of the grains and legumes to glass jars, labelled them (use blue painters' tape - it comes off easily when it's time to change things up again) and upgraded them from their cabinet banishment to our open kitchen cart, where I can easily see their status when menu planning or before I head out to the market.

With limited cabinet space in our kitchen, some of the more interesting items can get pushed to the back where I never, ever think to use them, so a re-org session is always a source of cooking inspiration. Lo and behold, among other lucky finds, my toils unearthed not one, not two, but three colorful varieties of rice that had been puchased with big plans in mind and promptly shoved in the back of a cabinet, utterly forgotten: forbidden black rice, purple sticky rice, and Himalayan red rice. And I'm happy to report that in the couple of weeks since the pantry re-do, all three have seen some quality stove time, to very positive review from my resident food critic, mr. yogi (boys need carbs, apparently? I dunno, learning as I go along ;)

For the red rice, I came upon yet another promising preparation from Chef Yotam (aka Ottolenghi) for a red rice and quinoa salad by way of 101 Cookbooks. As it turned out I had nearly all the ingredients -- or suitable substitutes -- at home (minus the quinoa, which I decided to leave out so the red rice would be the starring grain). So it was the one to guide me.

I soaked the rice during the day while I was at work, which shaves down the cooking time a bit, and when I arrived home, roasted off some thinly sliced fennel and red onion while the rice cooked. The red rice is beautiful, with a satisfying chew and nutty flavor: a bit fruitier and more complex than the brown rice I usually cook with. Finished with a sweet and savory combination of dried apricots, walnuts, scallions, cilantro, and a bright, ginger-spiked citrus vinaigrette, this is simple, whole grain cooking at its best.

Red Rice with Roasted Fennel, Red Onion and Apricots
Inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi's Red Rice and Quinoa

Serve as an accompaniment to a protein, or over a heap of leafy greens for a lighter one-bowl meal.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

1 cup red rice, soaked for 6 to 8 hours in water to cover, rinsed and drained (see note)
1-1/4 cups water
1 fennel bulb (about 1/2 pound), thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
2 tablespoons + 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
grated zest + juice of 1 lemon
1 small garlic clove, grated or crushed (about 1 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes (to taste)
1/2 cup dried apricots, sliced
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
2 to 3 scallions, thinly sliced (about 1/3 cup)
1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 400F.

1. Combine rice and water in a medium pot. Add a large pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cover pot. Cook until water is absorbed and rice is tender but not mushy, 35 to 40 minutes. Gently fluff rice with a fork and keep covered until ready to use.

2. Combine fennel, onion, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and a big pinch of salt in a large bowl. Toss to coat. Transfer vegetables to a sheet tray and roast at 400F until tender and caramelized around the edges, 25 to 30 minutes, stirring halfway through.

3. Whisk together remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, and chile flakes in a large bowl. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

4. Transfer rice and fennel-onion mixture to bowl with vinaigrette. Add apricots, walnuts, scallions, and cilantro; toss to combine. Adjust seasoning with salt and black pepper, if needed. Serve warm.

Note: Soaking the rice shortens cooking time and, in general, increases the digestibility of whole grains, as well as making the minerals they contain easier to absorb. If you do not have time for a soak, give the rice a good rinse in cold water and cook 5 to 10 minutes longer than noted in step 1, above.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

{ Fabulous Fermentation Week } Golden Beet Soup with Sauerkraut + Ginger Cream

Growing up in a mostly-Italian family with a kick-ass cook for a mama, many delicious dishes graced our table over the years, and yet (perhaps not surprisingly) despite our unanimous fondness for beets, borscht was never one of them. My first encounter with this dark and delicious concoction was only a few short years ago during culinary school, when I was assigned the job of borscht-maker during one of our soup and stew classes. An hour (and a hot-pink-splotched-and-stained recipe) later, I had fallen in love with this earthy, sweet, pleasantly tangy and comforting dish. Perhaps I was Eastern European in a past life? Anything is possible. But I do know this: beet borscht is one of the most under-appreciated dishes of all time.

When brainstorming recipes to share for Fabulous Fermentation Week, created by two of my favorite healthy bloggers, the lovely Elenore of Earthsprout and Sarah of My New Roots, I landed on the idea of a lighter and brighter take on the classic borscht: a golden beet soup with sauerkraut. And, lucky me, I happened to have a batch of homemade kraut in the fridge, just waiting for such an occasion...

A mason jar of tangy, fermented goodness is always a good thing to have around: this one is chock full of green cabbage, carrot, and ginger. 

This soup is definitely of the let-the-sunshine-in variety. Perfect for these cold, dark January days; its yellow and orange hues make me feel like I am being filled with the gorgeous glow of late afternoon. Root vegetables, warming and grounding for this time of year, plus the potent medicinal triad of onions, garlic, and ginger, make this a pot of ultra-winter-appropriate goodness to nourish the body and spirit. Caraway seeds and dried dill are must-haves in my book - classic borscht seasonings that pair so beautifully with beets - and a pinch of turmeric enhances the broth's golden color to an even richer hue. 

Sauerkraut, stirred into the pot after the soup has cooled for a few minutes to preserve its wealth of beneficial bacteria, provides gentle notes of sourness and salinity to the sweet and earthy roots, along with a dose of homegrown probiotics. And last but not least, a dollop of ginger-spiked Greek yogurt, ready to be swished and swiped with each spoonful, makes for a bright and tangy finishing touch.

golden beet soup with sauerkraut + ginger cream
serves 6

for soup:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
3/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
pinch of ground turmeric (about 1/8 teaspoon)
3 medium-sized golden beets, peeled and cut into matchsticks or shredded in a food processor (about 4 cups)
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks or shredded (about 2 cups)
1 small fennel bulb, finely diced (about 1-1/2 cups) (reserve green fronds for garnish)
6 cups vegetable stock or water
1 bay leaf
3/4 teaspoon dried dillweed
1/2 cup to 1 cup raw sauerkraut (depending on sourness of the kraut and your personal taste), drained, liquid reserved*
1 tablespoon sauerkraut liquid (or to taste)
sea salt

for ginger cream:
1/2 cup plain, full-fat Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon peeled and grated fresh ginger

Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add onion and a pinch of salt, and cook until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, caraway seeds, and turmeric, and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in beets, carrot, and diced fennel. 

Add water, bay leaf, dill, and a generous pinch of salt. Bring soup to a boil, reduce to simmer and cover. Cook until vegetables are tender and broth is flavorful, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes.

To make the ginger cream, whisk together yogurt and ginger in a small bowl. Reserve until ready to serve (can be made up to 24 hours in advance and kept chilled).

Remove soup pot from heat, allow to cool for a few minutes, and stir in sauerkraut. Season to taste with sauerkraut juice and additional sea salt, if needed. Serve in warmed bowls, garnishing with a dollop of ginger cream and a few torn fennel fronds.
*sauerkraut with carrot + ginger
makes about 1 quart
1 small head green cabbage (approx. 1 lb), shredded (about 6 cups)
1 carrot, peeled and grated (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons peeled and grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon sea salt
Combine cabbage, carrot, and ginger in a large bowl. Sprinkle sea salt over vegetables. With clean hands, massage the vegetables until they soften and release their liquid, 5 to 10 minutes.
Pack the cabbage mixture into a sterilized quart jar, pressing with a pestle to tighly pack down. Pour remaining liquid (brine) into jar to cover vegetables by at least 1 inch. Weight the top of the cabbage mixture to help the vegetables stay submerged (I use a sterilized spice jar, filled with water and covered with a tight-fitting cap). Cover jar with lid or a clean cloth and twine.
Leave jar at room temperature to ferment, using the weight to press down the vegetables if they begin to rise above the level of the brine. Ferment for anywhere from several days to several weeks, depending on temperature and how sour you like the kraut. Taste along the way, and transfer to the refrigerator when it tastes right to you (the kraut will continue to ferment when chilled, but at a slower rate).
** Fermentation Friends **

Monday, January 7, 2013

braised parsnips with cumin and coriander

As usual for January in New York, I returned from my Greenmarket trip yesterday hauling no less than 10 pounds of root vegetables. Among them, a rutabaga almost the size of my cranium, a bunch of rainbow-hued carrots, little white turnips, big golden beets, and a bag of slender, creamy-hued parsnips. No matter how often I eat these starchy winter roots this time of year, I never tire of them; often I simply roast them in large batches on a couple of sheet pans until their natural sugars are concentrated and their edges caramelized. Then they're ready to eat throughout the week: solo, maybe seasoned with a spritz of lemon and a dash of tamari, and added to soups, stews, and salads. They make a fantastic addition to a winter Buddha bowl, too. 

This week I got into reading a couple of my Ayurvedic cookbooks, which recommend liquid-based cooking rather than dry-roasting for most vegetables, especially starchy ones like roots and winter squash. The logic is that roasting increases the drying energy of these foods, and in winter, a cold, dry, and windy season, this is not exactly what our bodies, already struggling to hold onto moisture, really need. So, with a home-brewed humidifier already steaming on the stovetop (our apartment has been so dry lately, and this has helped a lot -- and smells amazing; I've included a pic of the brew below), it made sense to let the oven rest and give the parsnips a quick braise.

First I toasted cumin seeds and ground coriander in homemade ghee until the spices were fragrant, then added the peeled and chopped parsnips, cooking them until they began to caramelize around the edges. I added a little water, so the parsnips were about half-submerged, covered the pot, and simmered the mixture for about 10 minutes, until the parsnips were fork-tender. Done.

Braising made the parsnips ultra-tender and seemed to bring out their sweetness even more than roasting. The toasty, buttery richness of the ghee and brightness of the cumin and coriander were perfect complements to the sweet, earthy roots. This could be a fast, simple, and flavor-packed side dish alongside braised, grilled, or roasted meats; or add greens, beans, and a grain for a complete plant-based meal.

Choose smaller, thinner parsnips at the market, if possible; they are sweeter and more tender than larger specimens. If you don't have ghee on hand, sweet butter, coconut oil, or olive oil can be substituted, although they will not impart quite the same richness and depth of flavor. Also try using carrots, turnips, rutabaga, sweet potato, or kabocha squash in place of the parsnips.

1-2 tablespoons ghee
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1 pound parsnips, peeled and roll cut (or diced into 3/4-inch pieces), about 2 cups
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (to taste)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a 2- to 3- quart saucepan melt ghee over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and coriander and toast the spices, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the parsnips, stirring to coat with ghee and spices, and season with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Cook until the parsnips are golden around the edges, 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

Add water until parsnips are about halfway submerged (about 1/2 cup). Stir, cover, and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cook until parsnips are tender when pierced with a fork, about 10 minutes. At this point most of the water should have evaporated. If the parsnips look too wet, cook uncovered for a few minutes to allow the liquid to evaporate.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Monday, December 17, 2012

cauliflower fennel soup with ghee-toasted seeds

The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas always seem to fly by at lightning speed, and this year's been no different. I made a totally delicious pureed cauliflower and fennel soup for lunch the Saturday after T-Day, snapped a pic, then never got around to posting it. Luckily I jotted down the recipe, since I had a feeling I might want to share this one (and make it again myself, too).

Creamy, comforting, and gently spiced, this plant-amped soup is a welcome antidote to holiday indulgences, yet it's also festive enough to serve as a starter or amuse bouche for a dinner party (it would look especially cute poured into shot glasses and topped with a few toasted seeds). 

Cauliflower creates an ultra-rich and creamy consistency when pureed (so this is a great way to make a creamy soup without using cream), and fennel is sweet and soothing to the digestive tract. Cumin, coriander, turmeric, and fennel seed are warming, anti-inflammatory, and immune-supportive: ideal spices for the colder months of the year.

To add textural interest and elevate the soup to the main-course realm, I reserved some of the cauliflower and chopped it into small florets, roasting them in the oven with olive oil, sea salt, cumin and fennel, until fragrant and caramelized around the edges. (The challenge here is to keep yourself from nibbling away at the crispy cauliflower bits until there's none left for the soup. They're as addictive as potato chips ;)

Ghee-toasted seeds have been my favorite garnish lately. I first whipped up a batch to add crunch and depth of flavor to a three-bean green chile stew a couples of months ago, and they were a big hit. Ever since I've been making them in bigger batches (they'll stay fresh at least a week in an airtight container at cool room temp) and have been tossing them over soups and salads, roasted winter vegetables and baked sweet potatoes. They're a perfect toasty, nutty finish to just about anything, not to mention a good dose of protein, healthy fats, and essential minerals. 

cauliflower fennel soup with ghee-toasted seeds

makes about 1 quart (4 cups): 4 servings as a main course, 8 as a starter

the soup
olive or coconut oil, or ghee
1 yellow onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1 fennel bulb, diced (about 1 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2/3 of a large head of cauliflower, base and leaves removed, roughly chopped (about 4 cups) (reserve remaining cauliflower for roasting, below)
1 bay leaf
juice of 1 lime
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

roasted cauliflower florets
1/3 head of cauliflower (about 2 cups), cut into small florets
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

ghee-toasted seeds
(this makes more than you will need for the soup -- use the extra seeds to garnish salads and anything else you can think of)
2 tablespoons ghee
1 cup seeds/nuts of your choice (I used equal parts green pumpkin seeds (pepitas), sunflower seeds, sliced almonds, and pine nuts)
sea salt, to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon)

Heat oven to 425F.

For the soup: In a large pot over medium heat add a splash of oil or a couple of spoonfuls of ghee (about 2 tablespoons). When fat is glistening add the onion and fennel along with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Saute until vegetables are soft and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and spices and cook for another minute or so, until spices are fragrant.

Add the cauliflower to the pot, stirring to coat with spices. Add just enough cold water to submerge the vegetables (about 4 to 5 cups), and add the bay leaf, big pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover pot and cook on low until the cauliflower is tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

Allow the soup to cool for a few minutes, remove the bay leaf, and puree in several batches in a blender (filling the container no more than halfway each time). Return pureed soup to the rinsed pot and gently reheat over a low flame. Stir in the lime juice; if the soup is too thick, add a little water to thin it out. Season with salt and black pepper, to taste.

To serve, transfer soup to heated bowls, top with a couple of tablespoons of roasted cauliflower florets, a scattering of toasted seeds, and a drizzle of good-tasting olive oil.

For the roasted cauliflower: combine the cauliflower florets, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, cumin and fennel seeds, pinch of salt and black pepper in a large bowl. Toss to evenly coat the cauliflower with spices. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet, arranging the cauliflower in a single layer, and roast until the florets and browned and crispy, about 20 to 25 minutes (stir halfway through).

For the toasted seeds: melt ghee (or olive or coconut oil, if you like) in a heavy-bottomed skillet over a medium-low flame; I like cast iron for this, since it heats evenly and helps prevent the seeds from burning. Add the seeds or nuts to the skillet, stirring to coat with ghee. If using seeds or nuts of very different sizes, such as sliced almonds and sesame seeds, add the bigger ones first since they'll take longer to brown, and add the small seeds toward the end so they don't burn. Toast, stirring often, until lightly browned and fragrant. Transfer to a bowl and season with salt to taste.