creamy cauliflower soup with crispy beets and torn croutons

So, it’s been awhile.  Sorry.

Last night was the first time I’ve really cooked in over a week, thanks to first being “home alone” while Husband experienced the volcanic interruption, and the Lad and Lass were at my parents’. It was a good chance to get a leg up on spring cleaning (though you’d never notice it) and a girl is due her share of take-out, once in a while.  But I may have overdone it.

Then, it was more meals out during our Vineyard getaway at the end of the week, then we got back and celebrated my birthday – out, again.  Blessedly, that dinner – being a grown-up affair – did  not feature anything swimming in unnatural-looking cheese sauce or containing pressed chicken (more on the dearth of good kids’ food in restaurants another time.)

So, by the time I had to contemplate the market and what to make for dinner, I decided (a) that I was almost tired of eating, and (b) that I couldn’t really plan much past the meal at hand, so I would just get enough to make some soup.

Regardless of how simple a meal I wanted, I also wanted it to be something that was tasty, and satisfying and – above all – something whose ingredients I had chosen, and chopped, and maneuvered into soup-dom.  It turns out I wasn’t tired of eating; I was tired of eating things that I wasn’t in the mood to eat (birthday meal notwithstanding.)

And so it seemed to be a good time to try out Thomas Keller’s cream of cauliflower soup, which had a simple list of ingredients and could come together in less than an hour.  It was a cool, cloudy evening, and seemed the ideal time to give the white winter staple another life before the spring and summer produce really hits the stands.

The resulting soup was slightly sweet, scented lightly with curry, velvety smooth, and just rich enough to leave all of us sated.  Plus, I served it with beet chips and some reserved cauliflower florets I had sauteed in some butter, and some torn croutons – I love a good garnish, and these really made a simple soup into an something more interesting and elegant.

And, on top of all of that, both the Lad and the Lass lapped this up, meaning that I won the first battle in the war of detoxing them from The Week of Fries, Hot Dogs and Nuggets.  A soup, made of a vegetable they claim to not like, topped by another vegetable they claim to not like.  Consumed, completely.  Yes.

Creamy Cauliflower Soup
(adapted from Thomas Keller’s ad hoc, makes 4 to 6 servings)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
1 medium leek, white parts only, coarsely chopped
4 cups coarsely chopped cauliflower (about 1 head, cored)
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup water
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream

In a large, heavy pot, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the chopped onions, leeks, cauliflower, salt and curry powder.  Cook, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are all tender – about 20 minutes.  Adjust the heat, as needed, so that the vegetables do not brown.  Add the water, milk and cream and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, skimming foam occasionally, for about 20 to 30 minutes.  Remove from heat and process the soup in a blender, in batches, until thick and creamy.  Transfer to a new pot, adjust seasonings to taste, and reheat when ready to serve.  If the soup seems too thick, thin it with a bit of milk. Serve with torn croutons, crispy beets (recipe below) and – if you had extra – cauliflower florets that you’ve sauteed in some butter.

Crispy Beets
1 beet (I used a golden beet, but red would provide a striking contrast.  Don’t wear white when working with it!)
Canola or peanut oil for frying

Peel the beet and slice into paper thin slices – a mandolin would be ideal, or use careful knife work.  Heat about 1 1/2 inches of oil in a deep saucepan and heat to 300-degrees F.  Fry a few beet slices at a time, keeping them submerged ad turning them with a slotted spoon.  You’ll know they’re ready when they stop bubbling so energetically.  Drain on a paper towel over a cooling rack, and sprinkle with salt to taste.

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