Monday, March 5, 2012

Curried Cream of Cauliflower Soup

Did you know how easy it is to make delicious, satisfying cream of vegetable soup? All you need is THREE basic ingredients: 1) vegetables, 2) seasonings, and 3) broth or water. Oh - and a blender, of course.

You may have noticed from the above list that what you don't need is cream. As long as you have a good blender and get your proportions and seasonings right, there is absolutely no need to add any dairy or dairy substitutes in order to create a rich, creamy soup.

The best vegetables for cream-of soups are those which are either starchy (think carrots, parsnips, green peas) or "meaty" (think zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, mushrooms).

Cauliflower fits the bill most perfectly because it cooks quickly, has a beautiful texture when pureed, and provides an inherently mild canvas of color and flavor that offers extreme versatility. In its classic pairing with curry, a cauliflower base yields gorgeous, warm orange-gold tones and deep earthy spice. Love it!

One of the nicest things about making your own cream of vegetable soups is how quickly you'll be eating them. Truthfully, it doesn't take much longer to prepare this soup than it does to open a can of something that was made in a factory. Canned soups have their place in my pantry, and I will use them from time to time, but in terms of freshness and life force, there's no comparison.

To prepare this soup, begin by braising two cups of chopped cauliflower (half a medium sized head) in a cup of vegetable stock. Don't worry about making homemade stock - an organic packaged stock, such as the one from Imagine Foods, pictured above, works beautifully. (Alternatively, stir a teaspoon of powdered veggie broth or a bouillon cube into a cup of hot water).

Braising means, quite simply, "steaming in broth." It is one of my favorite, low-fat cooking techniques for both speed and yum factors. The only trick is to have all your pieces touching the liquid—no stacking!

Use a wide enough saucepan to allow for this arrangement, bring liquid to a boil and add the cauliflower. When the steam is rising again, cover the pan and reduce heat to low.

After braising for five minutes, the cauliflower will have reached its peak nutritional value and be soft enough to blend, so remove from heat and transfer to blender, liquid and all. (Research suggests that the anti-cancer compounds in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower become the most bioavailable to the human body following five minutes of steaming, after which values start to decrease.)

You might want to let the cauliflower-stock mixture cool down slightly before you begin blending, to avoid sputtering, but basically, the soup is ready to be prepped now. Just add a teaspoon of mild curry paste, and use a low to medium blender setting to achieve the desired level of creaminess. If the soup seems too thick, or you are having trouble getting the blending started, add more stock, straight from the box.

Once you have a suitable puree, taste soup and adjust seasonings as needed. You might like a pinch of salt, a pinch of cayenne or more curry paste. A squeeze of fresh lime or lemon juice will brighten everything up, so feel free to add that, too, if you have it.

Pour soup directly from the blender into your serving bowl, or reheat gently first. Top with chopped green onions or cilantro for a touch of green, and enjoy!


Kuroi said...

It looks delicious Im following!

Diana Allen, MS, CNS said...

Thank you, Kuroi. It's a pleasure to see you here!