The pressure’s high, just to stay alive / ‘Cause the heat is on…
This post might look like an epic tale about what you can do with roasted cauliflower, but it is basically one undeniably mighty fine and elemental soup formula, which on the merits of simplicity, economy and taste is hard to beat. Depending on the take you decide to choose, the cream of roasted cauliflower can stretch from a bowl of a humble cold weather comfort to the utterly festive haute cuisine dish you’d find in Michelin-star gastro-pub, or at a festive banquette.
In this post I will feature the following five splendid recipes:
As you might have noticed already, some images from our latest travel through Quebec countryside and NYC full of spring blossom made a splendid back drop to showcase these recipes.
First thing first: why roasting cauliflower? Why not just boil it? Good point. Roasting cauliflower (see the tips below) to slightly browned and caramelized taste gives an added value, as does any extra ingredient from spice to vegetable, to nut, or bacon, or crustacean bits. This soup tastes wonderful when served piping hot, but on a hot sunny day you can cool it down and serve with the splash of cream or almond milk. The basic roasted cauliflower soup formula is gluten free and totally vegan. Most importantly, for a simple few ingredients dish, it’s a low-caloric highly nutritional flavor bomb that you can easily overdose on few times a day feeling deeply satisfied and guilt-free. Which I guess is especially crucial now that many of us are poppin’ bikini/speedo tags, n’est–ce pas?
TIPS on ROASTING CAULIFLOWER: The method of oven roasting cauliflower in most recipes suggests that you separate the cauliflower into the florets, season with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast it at 350F to 400F for up to 30 minutes. Well, my experience suggests that cutting the cauliflower into the 1-inch thick steaks works better and using the oven preheated to 425F for 20-30 minutes, provides better, more evenly roasted results. Note, if your oven is very powerful, keep the temperature at 400F.
SPRING TO WINTER: My favorite all-year version is with hazelnut brown butter and a pinch of smoked chili/paprika or curry (the choice is yours) garnish. It is easy, sophisticated and cosmopolitan, adding a smoky nut crunch contrast to the creamy cauliflower goodness. It is exceptionally balanced and the combination is thought out and trendy. How about turning it up more by doubling on the smoke and crunch with some bits of bacon? HEAVENLY…
TIP on SHELLING HAZELNUTS: Contrary to the popular advice to shell hot roasted hazelnuts in a slightly wet towel (which doesn’t do a good job from my experience), this good ol’ tip coming from the SNL sketch look-alike video from 70s with glorious Julia Childprovides the fool-proof result on shelling hazelnuts (ps: this video will also arm you with a biscotti recipe).
Adding one or more vegetables (i.e. leeks, sweet potato, squash, etc.) to the roasting process and/or some sautéed greens to garnish can make an interesting twist in flavor and nutritional value. Try adding any root vegetable of your choice in fall or winter, and/or some garden/foraged greens in spring or summer. I like to apply almost any fresh farmers market finds to it, like in this version with chives and foraged fiddlehead ferns (pre-steamed or sautéed for 3-5 minutes in butter).
I use whatever is in season, from chives and green peas in summer; to corn, squash and pumpkin in fall; to cubed sweet potatoes or carrots in winter – the basic formula is a wonderful host for all of them. The only non-variable remains cauliflower.
SPECIAL OCCASIONS. The Cream of Roasted Cauliflower with Lobster Dumplings comes to my memory first. I remember having this exquisite soup at the wedding reception years ago. Fixed wedding menus/dishes can be hit or miss, with most of the time being and unfortunate miss of which young Winston Churchill would say: “It would have been splendid… if the wine had been as cold as the soup, the beef as rare as the service, the brandy as old as the fish, and the maid as willing as the duchess.” But that time the food was exceptionally good. I consumed that bowl of soup with reverent awe. Later, I found the approaching recipe on Food Network by Chef Michael Symon, whose taste buds I trust almost blind-foldedly. I used a roasted cauliflower instead of the sautéed one and the result was fantastic.
Today I’m sharing this recipe with you. This riff on roasted cauliflower is highly festive, helps to stretch the lobster to many plates and evokes the felling of comfort and elegance. If lobster is difficult to find, feel free to use shrimp (peeled, cooked and deveined) instead.
For the top notch finish, season with coarsely ground black pepper and drizzle with a bit of truffle oil.
And for the lobster dumplings:
I made it with the mix of crumbled goat cheese and feta bought from Chevriere de Monnoir farm I wrote about previously here and here. I also modified it by adding some roasted chestnuts (which you can buy now small-packaged in Adonis and even Walmart) into the soup and garnish and added a few drops of maple syrup. It came up sweet and umami and lick-the-plate-clean good. If goat cheese is not your thing, try it with grated cheddar, Monterey Jack, Gouda, Emmental, Swiss, etc. or any cheese that you put in your favorite cheese fondue – all would work wonders in this forgiving cream of soup formula.
Parsley is a known kidney tonic and the powerful antioxidant along with spinach, which also boosts the iron stores in the body, they help strengthen bones, detoxify and heal. The eggs nourish liver, heart and kidneys, while the home-made stock comforts and supports the stomach and digestive tract with minerals, glucosamine (in case of chicken stock), iodine, etc.
|Classic Restaurant Style Miso Soup|
Visually, when you look at a bowl of Miso soup it somehow reminds of a cloud of sand suspended in the water under which the treasure of other ingredients is hidden…
|Japanese Miso Soup & Kombu Seaweed|
Although I’m quite sure no one remembers that great activist woman of a Japanese origin, we all know that as of today, Japanese cuisine has officially conquered the world with its food culture intangibles. In a nutshell, to me it’s a story of the Japanese Chef Nobuki Matsuhisa, who came to the US via Peru, opened his first restaurant in Beverly Hills back in 1987 and was convinced by the rich admirer, Robert De Niro, to open one in NYC 7 years later (celebrity Hiroshima-born Iron Chef Morimoto used to be a head chef there as well). Today Chef and restaurateur Matsuhisa celebrates his 66th anniversary. ‘Nobu’ is all over the world, including US, UK, Italy, Greece, Russia, UAE, Hungary, Hong Kong and, of course, his native Japan…
|Chef Matsuhisa and his Miso Soup Images from Nobu’s Vegetarian Cookbook by © Nobu Matsuhisa|
Most of us however can’t afford to hop on a plane and fly to Japan to explore its rich culinary map and this is when the classic simple Japanese recipes come in handy. This post is my tribute to the humble Miso soup, a simple traditional Japanese concoction with exotic flavors of umami, sea and earthy and tangy taste of fermented soybeans. The mentioning of it instantly brings most of us to the sushi restaurants, where miso is a staple to begin the feast.
Unfortunately, the Internet is riddled with pseudo-classic miso soup recipes (missing kombu, using roasted nori instead of wakame, chicken stock or soya sauce for the stock base, firm tofu instead of soft, etc.) which can repulse you fast and make you forget about trying Miso soup DIY forever (this is how my first pack of miso paste ended up in garbage in a first place). But may be this fool-proof recipe will hook you on it without a problem.
The vegetarian version of Miso soup is made of primarily two basic ingredients: dried kombu seaweed-based stock called ‘dashi’ and ‘miso’, fermented paste from cooked salted and aged soybeans.
|Kombu Vegetarian Dashi Stock|
The RESTAURANT STYLE, NON-VEGETARIAN classic version of dashi stock is called awase dashi and has an extra ingredient in it: dried fermented and shaved skipjack tuna flakes called KATSUOBUSHI, which you can buy at any major Asian grocery like Kim Phat:
|Katsuobushi Flakes (Bonito)|
The sushi restaurant-style version also usually includes:
– soft silken tofu (never firm tofu);
– shitake mushrooms;
– wakame seaweed;
– minced scallions
|Other Miso Soup Ingredients|
And voila, your restaurant-style miso is ready!
Enjoy your first real miso! I will come back with more takes on it.
|Ginseng Chicken Soup Version|
|Tosokchon Restaurant in Seoul via Kampungboycitygal|
Traditionally this soup is served in Korea in summer to engineer spontaneous sweating and counter-balance the heat. For me, there’s no season for it. I like it rain or shine and find it specifically intensely nourishing during our 6 months-long Canadian winter-cold weather. It’s also not just a soup, but a bowl of a wonderful complete meal: with remarkably different nuances in taste, highly aromatic clear stock, mouth-watering chicken and delicate congee-like mix of rice that would absorb the flavors of broth and chicken and the sweetness of dates and goji berries. The ginseng adds a subtle bitter taste (barely noticeable), while garlic and chestnuts complete this insanely tasty composition with zero of in-your-face bold flavor. Shortly, it tastes like the king of the chicken soup for soul to me (if there’s such thing) evoking warm and fuzzy feeling (that lasts for a few hours after) almost instantly and creating the memory of almost luxurious meal.
|Ginseng Chicken Soup Ingredients|
|Silky Chicken via Wikimedia Commons|
|Black Chicken Ginseng Soup|
|Silky Black Chicken Ginseng Soup|
|Stuffing Chicken with Rice, goji berries, jujubes and garlic for Ginseng Chicken Soup|
|Dried Kombu Kelp Seaweed|
|Ginseng Chicken Soup Garden Style|
|Ginseng Chicken Soup Steps|
|Fresh American Ginseng|
|Ginseng Soup Dried Mix from Kim Phat Asian Supermarket|
|Psy, Gangham Style, New Year’s Eve 2013|
|Ginseng Chicken Korean Soup|