The other night I had the February blahs. I was hungry, felt as if I was fighting a cold, worn out from laboring in the garden, and wanted comfort food. I had very little in the vegetable tray, but what I had was perfect for this soup. I made it that night, and I refined it tonight.
This is a healthy, low-calorie, vegan soup that is pureed smooth and silky. Two factors make this soup special. First, you almost char the cauliflower and caraway in a very hot pan until it is dark brown. I’ll call it deeply browning, because I don’t want that burnt flavor of charring. I was once served a tomato soup at the Four Season’s Resort which obviously used charred tomatoes, and it tasted so burned that I couldn’t eat it. In fact, it nauseated me, like when you really burn something on the stove and that smell is all over the house. I don’t think that that was the response they were looking for! Deeply browning the cauliflower brings out a wonderful rounded flavor (you can deeply brown the cauliflower, add a little broth and steam for a few minutes, and serve it this way as a side dish… delicious!). The caraway releases its flavor in the heat, and then becomes a very subtle note in the soup so that you really can’t distinguish it. If you would like a heavier caraway flavor, just increase the amount of seeds.
The soup is pureed and is naturally creamy with the addition of the potatoes. While the frying pan is cooling you use it to toast the salt and cayenne, again releasing and deepening the flavors. Use this as a topping, which is then stirred into the soup by the guest. This soup doesn’t take long to make and is perfect for a cool winter’s evening, and doesn’t make the house smell like cauliflower, either.
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 medium head cauliflower, chopped (about 4 cups)
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 1 stalk celery, chopped (about ¼ cup)
- 1 medium potato, peeled and chopped
- ½ cup dry white wine (not sweet!)
- 1 tablespoon coarse salt
- ⅛th teaspoon cayenne pepper
- In a heat-tolerant frying pan, add two tablespoons olive oil and heat on high until almost smoking.
- Add cauliflower bits (watch for splashing!), caraway seeds and stir.
- Allow cauliflower to cook between stirring so that it develops dark brown marks on it. It should smell savory but not burned.
- Meanwhile, heat other two tablespoons of olive oil in a medium saucepan.
- Stir in shallots, celery, potato and wine.
- Cook until wine is reduced to very little.
- Add cauliflower and caraway to saucepan. Don’t wash the frying pan yet.
- Add broth and one can of water to saucepan.
- Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer for 30 minutes.
- In the cooling frying pan, stir together the cayenne pepper and salt and let it darken without burning. Keep in reserve.
- When soup is done, blend it until it is smooth, and caraway is as fine as your blender or VitaMix can make it.
- Pour back into saucepan and check for seasoning.
- Ladle into bowls.
- With a spoon (not your fingers… cayenne gets everywhere!) sprinkle some of the cayenne and salt mixture onto the soup.
- Either swirl it decoratively, or have guests stir it in before eating.