Last weekend at the farmer’s market I was seduced by a pile of gorgeous cauliflower at one of the booths. I wasn’t at all sure what I wanted to do with it, so when I got it home I opened the first book I think of when looking for interesting and unusual uses for fresh produce: Moro East. I lit on a recipe for cauliflower soup with cumin and coconut milk, and was instantly sold.
I seldom make pureed soups, but really like them when I do. I simplified the recipe a bit as I went, and liked it so much I wouldn’t make it any differently next time, although it might be even better if you followed the cookbook exactly – especially the caramelised chile butter with pine nuts drizzled on at the end. As it was, I loved the smooth texture, the quiet spices, and the hint of coconut peeking out from the cauliflower. I ate a bowl of it, sprinkled with smoked paprika, while waiting for the rest of dinner to cook, then ended up pouring spoonfuls of it over a pita stuffed with beef kebabs and spiced eggplant, as if it were tzatziki sauce. Fabulous.
Cauliflower Soup with Cumin and Coconut Milk
adapted from Moro East by Sam & Sam Clark
- 2 Tbsp olive oil and/or butter
- 1 large onion (I used a Walla Walla Sweet), chopped
- 1 large cauliflower, roughly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 tsp cumin seed
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 2 cups chicken broth
optional garnish: brown butter with smoked paprika, and pine nuts browned in olive oil (I just added paprika, minus the butter)
Saute the onion slowly in olive oil or butter (or a mix) in a soup pot until soft and golden, 20-30 minutes. Add cumin seed, cinnamon and garlic and cook a minute more, then add the cauliflower and stir it up well. Add a splash of water, cover and steam for 15-20 minutes, until the cauliflower has softened. Take the cover off and mash the cauliflower with a spoon or potato masher, continuing to cook if it’s not quite soft (add more water if it dries out). Pour in the broth and coconut milk, bring to a simmer and cook ten minutes or so. Salt to taste. Turn off the heat, then use an immersion blender to puree the soup smooth (I would recommend not trying this in a countertop blender, unless you want scalding cauliflower soup all over your kitchen). Check for seasoning, then serve.
We had originally planned to have steak for dinner, but I was feeling tired and steak sounded like a lot of work to eat, so we did a little menu rearrangement. We had bought a cauliflower with the intention of making Pasta al Cavolfiore, a comforting Moosewood standby from our college days, and it was just the thing for my mood. My husband used to make this for me when we were first going out, and I find it soothing.
Because this is a recipe from the 1977 Moosewood Cookbook, a book that could have been commissioned by the Eat More Cheese Association, it’s less of an Italian pasta dish and more like a vat of cauliflower cheese with some pasta and tomato thrown in. You don’t really have to add as much cheese as the recipe says to – it would still taste great – but I admit a lot of the appeal here is the dense richness of the cheesy pasta, studded with tart bits of cauliflower and herb. We do veer away from the Moosewood vegetarian standard by adding some chunks of seared kielbasa, which adds a nice smokiness, as well as heft.
It was hard to know what to eat after getting home from Duckfest. We’d eaten so much good food, I found myself wanting meals relatively light on carbs but not too depressingly healthy. I didn’t want to give us whiplash, after all.
This was a dinner that really hit the spot. Jon made up his favorite recipe for kofte kebabs with a mix of beef and lamb, but turned it into meatloaf instead of individual burgers or kebabs. I roasted a panful of cauliflower florets tossed with olive oil, cumin seed and mustard seed, and stirred up some yogurt with fresh garlic, dried mint, salt and pepper.
It was the perfect combination of comforting, spicy and virtuous.
One of the treasures that we brought back from Kansas City (and, no doubt, were responsible for our suitcase being searched) was this bunch of gorgeous skewers. They’re just what we’ve been wanting: long, flat and wide. Finally, we thought, we can make ground-meat kebabs without the meat falling off the skewer!
We were wrong, of course. Continue reading
Earlier this week, knowing we wouldn’t be eating dinner at home again for a while, I looked at the vegetables lurking in the refrigerator to see what needed using. A bunch of slightly faded Tuscan kale got eaten for breakfast (with a fried egg on top, yum), which left a bag of cute little cauliflowers, slightly spotted with brown, from our last trip to Dunbar Gardens. Cauliflower usually leads to one of two things around here: cauliflower gratin or Indian gingered cauliflower. We wanted to go the gingered route, so I went combing through our multitude of Indian cookbooks to find something to go with it. Continue reading