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.

curried coconut pumpkin soup

In my neck of the woods, it’s a little less autumn and a little more spring. The days are still bright and warm, the mornings are chilly, and there’s light all over the place in my house. My new house is empty, mind you, as our furniture and household goods haven’t arrived with the movers yet. But boy, is there a ton of light. In our last apartment we suffered under putrid flourescent bulbs and with minimum windows, but in this place we have thirteen — count ’em THIRTEEN — windows and I am in heaven. Not only does this make for a happy Erin, but for some much improved photography. There’s only so much I can do with poor lighting, and I hope that these newer photos redeem my previous attempts. But in all honesty, I can’t do much to make this soup not taste good, even if I had poor lighting or bad composition skills. This soup, my friends, makes up for the non-fall that’s happening here in west Texas. It’s been bringing September-October-November straight to my taste buds for a few lunches now and I’m totally okay with that.

Today’s Thanksgiving-esque recipe is another starter, but unlike our zesty salad from yesterday is characterized by warmer flavors of pumpkin and spice. This is definitely not a classic recipe for those expecting tried-and-true dishes like stuffing and gravy. This is an exotic, Indian-inspired soup that combines the heat of garam masala and the sweetness of coconut milk for a hearty, warming soup just right for starting off the big day.

I love anything pumpkin, but in my recent foray into sugar-free I’ve had to avoid those delicious pumpkin spice treats in every bakery in favor of something more savory. I’ve taken a few other orange squashes and turned them into salads and breakfast hashes, and I’ve made more than my fair share of unsweetened pumpkin pie smoothies to curb the cravings. I have designs to roast and puree my own pumpkin some day, plus there’s a recipe for a healthy pumpkin panna cotta/souffle dessert in the works. But for now it’s just as enjoyable to stay within the savory realm of pumpkin.

Curried Coconut Pumpkin Soup

1 Tbsp. butter

1 large yellow onion, diced

1 carrot, diced

2-4 c. chicken broth

1 small can of pumpkin puree (or about half of one of the larger cans)

½ can full-fat coconut milk

2 Tbsp. curry powder

1 Tbsp. garam masala

a few dashes of coconut aminos

s+p to taste

In a Dutch oven, over medium heat, sauté onions in butter until soft and translucent. Add carrots and cook, adding a spoonful of chicken broth here and there to keep everything soft and warm. Stir in spices. Once the veggies are cooked through, pour the whole lot into a blender (I used my Blendtec) with extra broth if necessary and pulse until liquefied. Pour back into Dutch oven over low heat.

Stir pumpkin puree into the veggie-broth mixture and add more broth until the consistency is right. It should be easy to stir but not too liquidy-soupy, as the coconut milk will add more moisture.

Add in more curry powder and garam masala. I did this by feel and by taste, so my measurements above are simply guesses. More garam masala will make the soup spicier, and more curry will add warmth, but the key is to continue to add a salt medium in relation to your spices – otherwise the soup will taste dusty along with spicy.

This is where the coconut aminos (like soy sauce, but made with fermented coconut) come in. Add a couple of dashes and then adjust to taste.

The coconut milk should be stirred in last, while the soup is warm enough to melt the coconut oil solids but not so hot that it turns into a watery mess. The principle is the same as when cream is stirred into soup at the very end.

Ideally, this soup should be served in tiny, hollowed-out sugar pumpkins for maximum aesthetic appeal. But when in doubt – and when in Texas, where I can’t find pumpkins – a classic orange Le Creuset will work. Garnish with fresh herbs or toasted pumpkin seeds, or serve with sweet cornbread or warm naan. To make a complete meal out of this, serve over rice or cauliflower “rice” seasoned with coconut aminos. Can’t you just imagine little orange dollops of this spicy soup on a pretty table, set with old china and candles and fall foliage and bittersweet berries?

A feast for the eyes and for the belly!

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P.S. Today marks our six month wedding anniversary — happy day to my love, and thanks for putting a ring on it! xo