Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Spicy Cauliflower Soup

Back when I bought Countess LuAnn of New York's mildly hypocritical book of hilarious etiquette, I also picked up this soup cookbook for eight dollars. While I was flipping through it, I spotted at least four recipes that I wanted to try, and now that I've had time to page through it a few times it's full of bookmarks for things that I want to try out. Another plus is that many of the soups call for less than five ingredients, which implies that they are hard to screw up.

Case in point: Tonight I made Curried Cauliflower Soup, which only had three main ingredients but was kind of an adventure to me because I've never prepared a cauliflower.

Shut up.

Lots of people hate vegetables.

I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but I was a very stubborn child, and my parents eventually gave up on trying to force new foods on me. I brought my lunch to school every day from kindergarten until graduation, and the sandwich was either peanut butter and grape jelly ("No strawberry! Only grape!") or American cheese ("Only the orange kind!") and mayo (on this point my brother was the problematic one; I will eat mayo, light mayo, Miracle Whip, Miracle Whip light, store brand, etc. but while living at home he would only eat Miracle Whip, and only the regular kind, not the diet kind). I did not eat pizza with sauce on it until I was in college, and did not eat a salad until I was in graduate school because I would not eat lettuce.

So, anyway, lots of things are still new experiences to me, and the attraction of trying cauliflower via this particular recipe was that the soup is pureed at the end. Like a baby, I respond better to new foods when they are pasted into mush. I've had cauliflower mixed in with another pureed soup, but this was the first time by itself.

According to the recipe, I needed:

1 large cauliflower
3 cups milk
1 tablespoon garam masala
salt and pepper to taste

Most of this was pretty easy to locate. I know where to find milk, and I already have salt and pepper. I've seen cauliflower in the produce department, so that wasn't really a challenge:


I wasn't sure how big a "large" cauliflower should be (or, for that matter, if you just call it a cauliflower; is it a head of cauliflower? a growth? a cluster?) so I took the biggest one in the case.

Then I tried to find garam masala. I looked online before going to the store, and discovered that garam masala is a blend of spices, so I went to look in the spice aisle, with no luck. Then I went to look in the International aisle, because my friend Liz said that it's often used in Indian cooking, but had no luck there, either. Eventually, I asked a Kroger employee, but the look they gave me suggested that I might as well have asked for a platter of unicorn steaks marinated in fairy dust.

"Garam... masala?"

"It's a spice. I looked online. McCormick makes it."

"Did you check... at... McCormick's?"

"McCormick is a company, not a store. They make spices."

"You should check the spice aisle."

I should also refrain from beating you with my tumor of cauliflower, since you're sort of trying to help.

Fortunately, I was right in suspecting that they might have it at Earthfare. Even more fortunately, I ran into my friend Jennifer, who is a trained chef, there and she knew exactly where it was. In case I wanted other Indian spices, she also pointed me toward what she's pretty sure is the only Indian market in town. I'm pretty sure she's right, since I've never noticed one anywhere else.

Armed with my spices, I went home, and got to work. First, the recipe advised me to cut the cauliflower into florets. I know what a broccoli floret looks like, so this seemed easy enough:


Then I put all the ingredients in a pot and waited for the milk to come to a boil. Right before it did, I decided that the florets were too big:

mixed soup ingredients

so I cut them into smaller pieces while they were still in the pot and the milk was starting to boil. This is probably about as smart as ironing your shirt while wearing it, but I managed not to scald myself. After the milk boiled, I lowered the heat, covered the pot, and left it to simmer for 18 to 20 minutes:

cooked down

and then dumped the whole thing into the blender:


and pureed it into delicious, if colorless, soup:

spicy cauliflower soup

The garam masala gives it a really nice smell, but that's also mostly all I tasted, so I guess cauliflower is kind of bland? Maybe subtly flavored and easily overwhelmed? Either way, I really liked the soup, and it was so easy that even I couldn't screw it up.


Rod Roscoe said...

Cauliflower is a subtle flavor. You can make a non-potato alternative to mashed potatoes out of them.

And you can put cheese on them, too. :)

Liz said...

Raw cauliflower is delicious with dip or in a cheese fondue.

Also now that you've found the local Indian market, try some South Asian recipes. I recommend: