Spicy Cauliflower Soup


I got home from work this week, opened up the fridge, and blinked blankly a few times. I had a grant to write and we didn't have any toast for dinner, plus I wanted something warming and satisfying. These cold and rainy weeks have felt so wintery!

In my crisper drawer was a tight and bright head of cauliflower, one of my favorite staples to buy from our local produce market. Talking about cauliflower makes me sounds like Forest Gump, "You can roast it, mash it, smother it with capers and vinegar, toss it into pasta, steam it whole and make it into soup!" I feel like this brassica is finally getting it's due - no longer only used on dip platters, with tiny baby carrots and ranch dressing. I love it because it can stand up to bold, deep flavors and can sit in the fridge more than a couple days. When I'm at a loss for dinner I'll slice it, toss it with spices and roast it in the oven to eat with a soft egg or rolled up in a tortilla. This particular winter night, I made another easy staple - cauliflower soup.

Somehow through the magic of soup alchemy, a few veggies, chopped onion and herbs turn into something so deeply delicious. I sautéed onion, carrot and lots of spices, then added a head of cauliflower, water and broth. After just 10 minutes of prep my dinner was simmering on the stove and I was advocating for our programs to a funder. After 40 minutes or so, dinner was ready - warm and satisfying. Cheap and easy. It was the perfect weeknight meal, with lots of leftover for lunches.

This recipe came together withl things I had on hand already - no trips to the store. And one, last tip. This recipe calls for a squeeze of lime (or lemon) at the end, and it is what makes the soup. I learned this tip from a cook at the farm I worked on - always add a dash of acid before you serve your soup. Just a splash of vinegar, or lemon juice at the very end brightens and deepens the flavors immediately. It's my favorite cooking trick and has made all the difference.

Spicy Cauliflower Soup
From the Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 tsp. coriander seeds, crushed
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds, crushed
  • 1 tsp. chile powder
  • 1/4 tsp. tumeric
  • 1/4 tsp. dried chile flake
  • salt + petter
  • 6 cilantro sprigs, roughly chopped
  • 1 large head (~ 6 c.) of cauliflower, trimmed and coarsely chopped
  • 3 c. chicken broth (or veg would work too)
  • 3 c. water
  • yogurt
  • chopped cilantro
  • squeeze of lime or lemon

Heat the oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot. Add the onions, carrots and all the spices to to the pot and sauté over medium heat, adjusting so nothing browns. Once the onion is really soft but not brown, add the cauliflower and coat with the onions for just a minute. Then add cilantro, broth and water. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer. Check after 30 minutes - the cauliflower should be very tender. Cook longer if needed. 

Then, the recipe recommends vigorously whisking the soup until the cauliflower breaks up. This gives it a good texture - more broth with smaller bits of veggies. This latest time I used my immersion blender, blending about half of the soup and smashing the remaining chunks with a fork, thickening the broth a bit which was also really good.

Serve with a dollop of yogurt, sprinkling of cilantro and squeeze of lime. What is so great about this soup is sub with what you have, make do, and it will still be delicious. Next time I want to make spicy croutons to go on top!