I am a massive fan of potato – leek soup (hot) or vichyssoise (cold). There is something immensely comforting in that equally starchy and creamy spoonful; it’s like taking a time machine back to fine dining in 1960. Something about that appeals to me. However, as with most of the food featured on this blog, I actually eat what I cook. When I cook for myself I try to tread the fine line between healthful and tasty. So the other day at the store, I found myself grabbing leeks and thinking of what to do. Then I saw the cauliflower, and all the pieces fell into place. I would make a faux-chyssoise, replacing the carb-laden potatoes with the lighter cauliflower.
Now, I’ve tried to make a cauliflower soup before and it turned out…not so great. I found a recipe in some magazine, zoned out, and followed it verbatim. It called for 1 head of cauliflower to like, 6 CUPS of stock and water! That is crazy talk. With that much liquid, you wind up with basically globs of cauliflower puree floating in a water and stock mixture. Blugh. So today I barely used 2 cups of stock to the cauliflower. The result was creamy and even. It’s not quite the silky sensation that true potato leek soup is, but I think a pass through a fine mesh sieve or a chinois would help with that. I was hungry, and didn’t really care about that so much in the moment. If you like a bit of texture in your soup, just leave it as it is after you blend it. For my garnish, I sprinkled the top with some toasted and diced proscuitto – a salty little bite to contrast with the mildness of the soup. I also prepared some toast with goat cheese to go on the side. Add a little mixed greens with balsamic to your plate and you are in business. It’s a fresh, simple meal that satisfies both the gourmand and the realist that coexist in my head.
*A quick note on leeks, for the novice: Always remove the rough top parts, using only the white and light green parts. Usually this is the bottom 2 1/2 to 3 inches. Then chop of the furry root. Most importantly, cut them in half lengthwise and rinse under water. Leeks are roots, and are grown in sand, thus are very likely to have a lot of grit and dirt trapped in their many layers.
Cauliflower & Leek Soup
1 head of cauliflower, rinsed and de-leafed, cut into medium chunks
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 leeks, chopped
2 -3 cups chicken stock (just enough to cover the top of the cauliflower in the pot)
1/2 tsp rubbed sage
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/3 C milk
Salt, to taste
Prosciutto or Pancetta, lightly browned
Chopped fresh rosemary
For the toast:
4 slices of italian or french bread
Preheat oven to 375 F.
On a sheet pan, toss the cauliflower with a little olive oil and salt. Roast gently for about 7-10 minutes, until just softened but not browned. Meanwhile, in a dutch oven or pot, warm about 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the garlic and leeks, and cook over medium heat until softened. You want to keep the heat under control here and pay attention, because the goal is for the leeks to be very pliable and soft but not browned. Add the cauliflower, stock, sage, and nutmeg to the pot, and simmer for 20 minutes or until the cauliflower is quite soft.
Pour the contents of the pot into a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Pour back into the pot. Over low heat, stir in the milk. Stir gently and season to taste. Garnish with pancetta or prosciutto and chopped fresh rosemary.
Oven should already be at 375. On a sheet pan, drizzle the bread with olive oil and a little salt. Bake for about 5 minutes, or until toasty but not super hard and crunchy. Spread with a little goat cheese. Enjoy!