Monday, February 18, 2013


I have long professed myself a disliker of cauliflower. I always thought of it as having a cabbagey taste and smell (I love that Mark Twain called it “cabbage with a college education”), and overall it just seemed like a more depressing version of broccoli--which does share that cabbage-like whiff, but at least has a lovely green color and flavor going for it. But deep down, I knew I wasn’t giving it a fair shake. Most of my encounters with cauliflower were raw, as a crudite surrounding a bowl of dip on a party platter, or floating around in a salad. I heard that, as with many difficult vegetables, roasting would transform cauliflower into something wonderful, but I was never brave enough to give it a shot.

A few years ago, A’s brother served us cauliflower soup as a first course at Thanksgiving dinner, and while I was suspicious, it tasted pretty good, not cabbagey at all. So when I spotted this cauliflower soup recipe in Cooking Light, I figured it would be the perfect way to bring cauliflower into my kitchen for the first time, since it featured both roasting to enhance the flavor and pureeing to obliterate the texture, plus a topping of prosciutto that I knew would entice A. And I was not wrong. I liked this soup, and A really liked it, several times specifically mentioning how good it was, and even willingly eating a leftover portion the next day, a rare compliment where soup is concerned. The soup itself is silky and subtle, with a delicate nutty flavor, and the ham-breadcrumb-almond-parsley topping adds interesting flavors, textures, and colors. It’s definitely a keeper; I made it basically as written and wouldn’t change a thing.

With this as my gateway drug, the next step is for me to try unpureed roasted cauliflower. If that’s a success and I decide to admit I don’t hate cauliflower anymore, then the list of vegetables I think I don’t like is growing pretty darn short. Which means that if I want any more challenges like this, getting to know Brussels sprouts is probably in my future.

8 cups cauliflower florets (about 1 large head or 2 medium)
2 teaspoons olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
Cooking spray or olive oil
4 thin slices prosciutto or other cured ham, chopped (about 2 ounces)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
¾ cup chopped yellow onion
4 garlic cloves, chopped
4 cups unsalted chicken stock
1 cup water
½ cup half-and-half
1 ounce French bread baguette, torn into coarse crumbs (about ¼ cup)
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Place cauliflower in a large bowl, drizzle with oil, sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt, and toss to coat. Arrange mixture in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet coated with cooking spray, a small amount of oil, or parchment. Roast for 40 minutes or until tender and browned, stirring once after 30 minutes.

3. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray or a small amount of olive oil. Add prosciutto and cook 3 minutes or until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels. Melt 1½ teaspoons butter in pan. Add onion and garlic; sauté 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cauliflower, stock, and 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in half-and-half. Place half of cauliflower mixture in a blender, and puree until smooth, then pour pureed soup into a bowl and repeat with remaining cauliflower mixture. (Alternatively, you can just puree the soup in the pan with an immersion blender.) Stir in remaining ¼ teaspoon salt.

4. Melt remaining 1½ teaspoons butter in a small skillet over medium heat and swirl to coat the bottom of the skillet. Add breadcrumbs and sauté 5 minutes or until golden, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Combine ham, breadcrumbs, parsley, and toasted almonds. Ladle soup into each of four bowls, and top each serving with a quarter of the toasted breadcrumb mixture.

Serves: 4
Time: 1½ hours
Leftover potential: Great; I stored the toasted-breadcrumb topping mixture for the leftover portions separately from the soup in an attempt to keep it from getting too soggy, but I’m not sure how much of a difference that really made.

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