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.

4 comments:

  1. HI Nancy,
    I am woefully behind in my blog reads, but wanted to comment on how much I love this recipe (I love your soups) and plan on making it soon.
    Wishing you all the best this new year--
    Nancy

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  2. Thanks, Nancy :) I'm so behind on my reads, too. Happy New Year!

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  3. This recipe is about as good as it gets! What a feast for the tastebuds. I am lusting after winter sitting here in midsummer heat where the garden is curling up like an old sepia photograph from the 70's. I am thinking about cooking enormous pots of soup on top of Brunhilda our wood fired oven and spending my days snuggled up on the couch with the soup, a good book and my dogs. Thank you for this wonderful blog. I have just found a heap of great blogs through the fabulous fermentation blog hop and am in 7th heaven. Again...this soup is soul food :)

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    Replies
    1. Howdy @theroadtoserendipity, thanks for your lovely comment! It's been such fun discovering new blogs through the fab fermentation week.

      I am lusting after midsummer heat as I sit here watching the snowflakes fall outside my window in nyc. Time flies, though, and before long I will be sweating and dreaming of winter, and you will be simmering soups on Brunhilda!

      Happy cooking :)

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