cauliflower soup

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It’s chilly and crisp and autumnal and I love it. I love soup all times of the year, but particularly as the days get shorter and the air gets cooler. There’s a reason why you’re supposed to eat soup when you’re sick, or sad, or grieving. It is comfort food at its finest, literally imparting warmth and nourishment to the body to trickle out into the spirit.

I suppose I’m particularly nostalgic about soup at the moment because just a few days ago I watched a man wrap up my beloved Le Creuset in packing paper and tape and put it in a box to be shipped across the ocean. It was a weird feeling, to watch strangers handle all of my possessions and feel little to no attachment to them. Slowly but surely my house got emptier and emptier until there were only a few things left. The piano. The sofa. My Le Creuset. It was at this point that I started to get a little sad.

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Have I told you the story of the Le Creuset? It’s a good one. I’ve wanted a piece of the classic cookware for years. Years. I can’t even disintangle my thoughts to a time in which I didn’t feel that I would finally be a real cook once I had my own. I read Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, a beautiful memoir by Alexandra Fuller about coming back to her childhood home in Zimbabwe to deal with her aging parents and haunted memory, in which the author’s mother has a full set of Le Creuset cookware that makes its permanent home in their outdoor kitchen, the bright orange enamel glinting in the sun and unmarred by time.

But the price. Oh goodness. The Le Creuset French oven is an investment, a classic piece that will last a lifetime and then some, but STILL. There was no way I was going to get one of my own any time soon, nor would I be callous enough to ask for one as a wedding gift. And yet.

One day my industrious mother called me from a flea market, hardly able to contain her excitement. She had found a vintage Le Creuset oven in classic orange for less than $100 and had managed to talk the dealer down to almost half of that price, and she was bringing it to me that weekend. To give to me. For me to use forever and ever and ever.

And since then it has been my absolute favorite piece of kitchen equipment. It is a versatile workhorse: I’ve used it to make everything from homemade sourdough bread to every kind of soup and braised stew. It adds cheer to my stovetop, the pot’s permanent home, and every time I use it I think about how it came to me. Through patience and love and a whole lot of bargaining power, and it embues everything I cook in it with a little of that magic.

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Savory Cauliflower Soup

1 qt. homemade broth

1 large head of cauliflower

1 medium pattypan squash

1 large onion

2 Tbsp. coconut oil or lard

3-5 cloves garlic

2 tsp. salt

fresh black pepper

1-2 Tbsp. fish sauce

2 Tbsp. coconut aminos

dash of smoked paprika for garnish

Melt the lard in a large, heavy-bottomed pan. Meanwhile, slice the onion and crush the garlic; set aside. Once the fat has melted, add in the sliced onions and cook until golden brown, about 10 minutes — this doesn’t caramelize the onions but it does get the process started and, thus, imparts more flavor. To this, add the crushed garlic, salt, pepper, coconut aminos and fish sauce. Cook until fragrant, about a minute.

Dice the pattypan squash and the cauliflower and add to the pot. Turn the heat up to medium-high and pour in homemade broth. Stir everything together and bring to a boil before covering and simmering until the vegetables are tender. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Remove the still-chunky soup from the stove to cool a bit before processing in a blender. The soup should be smooth and creamy, free of lumps, and still plenty hot. Return pot to heat if necessary. Serve with a pinch of smoked paprika and a garnish of fresh tarragon, parsley or whatever other herbs are handy.

zucchini “hummus”

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I’ve always been a big fan of hummus, and once I started this paleo thing I was a little bummed to learn that chickpeas, and therefore hummus, are out of the question. Hummus was always my go-to “healthy” snack at parties and potlucks, and it was a reliable dish to keep around during college for hungry afternoons hitting the books. I’ve been fine without it since I got over my original sadness, but what I do miss is the smoky tang of the tahini.

What’s tahini, you ask? It is the foundation of hummus, the building block upon which all other flavors rely. Tahini is a smooth paste made of ground sesame seeds, all nutty and tangy and roasty. Without tahini, hummus and baba ganoush and all other dips would be weak and unappetizing. Additionally, sesame seeds are a great source of calcium, zinc and iron, especially the unhulled variety of tahini (sometimes called sesame seed butter).

SONY DSCSome friends invited us over for dinner last week and asked that I bring a veggie tray, and since no veggie tray is complete without an incredible dip I made a variation on a bean-less recipe inspired by this Christmas gift, using cumin-roasted zucchini in place of chickpeas. The result was just as satisfying — and with an even smoother consistency — as my once-beloved hummus, this time flecked with green and fragrant with spices and garlic. Serve with fresh sliced cucumbers and bell peppers, or even a treat like these raw flax crackers in the photograph. So what if they taste a little like seaweed? They’re GOOD FOR YOU.

Hush up  now and eat your vegetables.

SONY DSCZucchini Hummus

3 small zucchini

1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil

1 c. tahini

2 lemons, juiced

1 tsp. garlic salt (or 2 garlic cloves, in which case you should add salt)

fresh ground pepper

pinch of cayenne

1 Tbsp. cumin

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash and slice zucchini lengthwise, and toss in fat of choice (I used coconut oil), and a liberal sprinkling of salt and cumin. Roast until golden on the edges, beginning to char – about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, pulse tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and spices in food processor until smooth. When zucchini is roasted, roughly chop and add to hummus base. Pulse until smooth. Season to taste and enjoy at parties or as an appetizer before dinner at home.