cauliflower + parsnip soup

Around this time of year, I can think of no better way to spend a day than standing over a slowly simmering pot of soup. For me, it’s a way to unwind. I find calm in watching the steam rise in lazy curls from the pot, and of bowing my head over them to inhale deeply. Nothing is hurried, nothing sudden. There is no urgency, no pressure.

After a particularly demanding week in culinary school, I longed for this slowness in the kitchen, and set out to make a soup that would be as comforting to prepare as it would be to enjoy. A couple heads of cauliflower and a handful of parsnips promised a simple, yet warming combination of autumnal flavors. To that I added some thyme and bay leaves, which released their herbaceous and lively aromas as they simmered along with the vegetables. After cooking, I added a touch of heavy cream and sweet, roasted garlic for richness and depth.  All in all, a mere seven ingredients flavor this dish – each one working together with the next to complement and balance, yet also receiving the attention it deserves.


cauliflower + parsnip soup

Like all of the soups I love, this soup demands nothing. There are no elaborate cooking techniques, no unique ingredients – just a simple, wholesome combination of cauliflower, parsnips, and roasted garlic. The perfect dish to curl up with on a chilly fall day.

 

ingredients:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 1/2 cups chopped white onion (about 2 small onions)

2 heads cauliflower, greens removed

2 pounds of parsnips (about 4 medium-large), peeled and ends trimmed

3 sprigs of fresh thyme, plus leaves for garnish

2 bay leaves

2 heads of garlic

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish

1 cup heavy cream

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a heavy-bottomed large dutch oven or stock pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the chopped onions and sweat, stirring occasionally, until translucent and just beginning to brown on the edges, about 10 – 15 minutes.

While the onions cook, prepare the cauliflower and parsnips: remove the greens from the stems of the cauliflower and cut the stems into 1-inch sized chunks. Separate the heads into florets. Reserve 2 heaping cups of the florets and set aside. Add the rest of the cauliflower to a large bowl. Peel the parsnips and cut into 1-inch sized pieces. Add the parsnips to the bowl with the cauliflower.

Once the onions are translucent, add the parsnips and cauliflower and increase the heat to medium. Cook for 15 minutes, until vegetables are just beginning to brown on the edges. Add 8 cups of water, the thyme sprigs, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer, and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, prepare the garlic and roasted cauliflower garnish: Separate the reserved 2 heaping cups of florets into even smaller florets. Spread evenly in one layer on a sheet pan. Cut the garlic heads in half horizontally, keeping the peels on, and arrange next to the cauliflower. Drizzle everything with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of coarse salt. Transfer to the preheated oven and roast. After about 25 – 30 minutes, once cauliflower is browned, remove from the pan and set aside. Allow garlic to continue roasting for an additional 10 – 15 minutes until soft and browned on the edges. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Once soup has simmered for 45 minutes and the vegetables are tender, remove from heat. Carefully remove the bay leaves and sprigs of thyme (the leaves will have fallen off by this point) and discard. Squeeze the roasted garlic from the peels into the soup, being careful not to get any peels into the pot. Working in batches, or with an immersion blender, puree the soup until completely smooth. If using a blender, transfer the soup back to the pot after its pureed to rewarm. 

Add the heavy cream and adjust the seasoning to taste (I added 3 teaspoons of salt and a few cracks of black pepper). If soup is too thick for your liking, you can add a bit of water at this point (though I didn’t need to).

Serve the soup in bowls and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle roasted cauliflower florets and thyme leaves over the top as garnish.

 

yield: approximately 3 quarts of soup; serves 6

chilled corn + fennel soup with crab

chilled corn + fennel soup with crab

This soup highlights the sweetness of fresh summer corn, with a subtle anise flavor from fresh fennel. All of the scraps from the vegetables in this recipe are used to make an easy, and flavorful, homemade vegetable stock — so you don’t have to feel badly about wasting a thing. The recipe is a bit loose, and the consistency of the soup will depend on how much corn your 6 cobs produce — luckily, it is easy to adjust by just adding more vegetable stock at the end. You can also omit the crab if you do not have access to fresh crab meat or would like to make this soup vegetarian.

 

for the vegetable stock + soup:

6 fresh corn cobs

1 leek

1 fennel bulb (stalks and fronds still attached)

5 cloves of garlic [4 smashed and peeled, 1 peeled and minced]

2 bay leaves

2 large handfuls of roughly chopped fresh chives

2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns

2 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

 

for the crab:

1 cup fresh lump crab meat

1 tablespoon chopped fresh fennel fronds

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter

 

First, prepare the vegetables and vegetable stock:

Corn: shuck the corn, and cut the kernels from the cobs. Place the kernels in a medium bowl and using the back of your knife, scrape the milk from the cobs into the bowl with the kernels. Set corn kernels and milk aside. Add the empty cobs to a large stock pot.

Leek: Fill a small to medium-sized bowl with cold water. Cut the dark green part of the leek from the white and light green portion. Slice the white and light green portion in half lengthwise and chop into thin half-moons [should measure about 1 cup of chopped leek]. Transfer the chopped leek to the bowl of water, using your hands to separate the pieces and allowing all the grit to sink to the bottom of the water. Once clean, remove leeks from the water and drain on paper towels. Set aside. Chop the dark green part of the leek into large pieces and add to the stock pot with the corn cobs.

Fennel: Remove the fennel stalks from the bulb. Reserve a few of the fronds for the crab and garnish, and chop the rest of the stalks into 3 – 4-inch pieces and add to the stock pot. Core the bulb and dice [I used a mandolin to slice a couple of pieces from the bulb before coring for garnish, but this is optional]. Measure 1 cup of diced fennel and set aside [this should be about 3/4 of the bulb, depending on the size of your fennel]. Add any remaining fennel to the stock pot. 

To the stock pot, add the 4 cloves of peeled + smashed garlic, bay leaves, chives, peppercorns, 2 teaspoons of the salt, and 9 cups of water. Set over high heat, uncovered, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and keep at a fast simmer, uncovered, for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Drain the stock into another stock pot or large bowl and discard all solids. Set stock aside to cool.

While stock is cooling, prepare the soup: to a large saute pan over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 cup of the reserved diced fennel, the chopped and washed white and light green parts of the leek, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Saute, stirring frequently, until leek and fennel soften and start to caramelize, about 20 – 25 minutes. Add the remaining 1 minced clove of garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add reserved corn kernels and milk, and 2 tablespoons of butter. Saute, stirring until butter has just melted, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Add 3 cups of the reserved vegetable stock.

Working in batches, blend the corn mixture until smooth [making sure to only cover the blender with a kitchen towel so that steam can escape]. Depending on your preference, at this point you can adjust the consistency of the soup with more vegetable stock [remember to just add a little at a time — you can always add more — and also remember the the soup with thicken slightly as it cools]. Once your desired consistency is reached, pour the soup into a large bowl or stock pot, cover, and transfer to the refrigerator to chill until cold, at least 2 hours.

Once soup has chilled, prepare the crab: in a small bowl, combine lump crab meat, fresh fennel fronds, lemon juice, and melted butter. Ladle soup into bowls and spoon crab over top. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and garnish with flaked salt, fennel fronds and fresh chives if desired.

serves 4

fresh pea + mint soup

Summer has arrived in whirlwind, as it always does. Our weekends have been filled with travel, loved ones’ weddings, and countless activities. But, even with the added activity, our pace is still slower and more relaxed. Every to-do is on hold because there is just too much to enjoy in the present moment. Things are busy, but life just seems simple and uncomplicated.

In the spirit of simplicity, I wanted to share this fresh pea soup that I made this past weekend. Unadorned and unfussy — just a bowl full of peas in all of their summertime glory. Shelling the peas takes a bit of time, but it’s one of those classic summertime dinner activities — much like shucking corn on the cob — that you can’t help but enjoy. And, once the peas are shelled, the soup takes less than 15 minutes to put together: just a quick sauté of some chopped onion, a swift boil of the peas in some vegetable broth until just tender, and then a spin in the blender with a handful of mint, and a few dollops of creme fraiche. If that isn’t a simple summertime meal, I’m not sure what is. I hope you give it a try.


fresh pea + mint soup

This soup is as simple as it is versatile and is delicious served both hot and chilled. Its flavor depends on the quality of its ingredients, so make sure to use fresh peas for the best possible flavor (they are everywhere this time of year).

This recipe makes a small batch (makes 1 very large bowl, or 2 smaller bowls) but can be easily doubled or tripled as you see fit.

 

a few notes: This recipe is a bit loose and depends on your personal taste. Add more vegetable broth if you prefer it thinner, less if you’d like it thicker. If you serve the soup cold, it tends to thicken a bit as it chills.

If possible, buy the peas unshelled and shell them yourself just before cooking. It requires a bit of work, but the flavor is worth it! Pre-shelled peas (even when they are fresh) tend to loose some of their flavor and sweetness over time.

 

ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds unshelled sugar snap peas

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 of a medium yellow onion, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups low sodium vegetable broth, plus more if needed

1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh mint leaves, plus more for garnish

1/4 cup creme fraiche

1 tablespoon heavy cream + 1 tablespoon creme fraiche, combined for garnish

extra virgin olive oil, for garnish

salt to taste

First, shell the peas: snap the end of each pod and pull the string down the center seam of the pod. Use your fingers to pry open the seam and release the peas from their shell. Add peas to a bowl and set aside. *The discarded shells are delicious eaten raw as a snack while you’re cooking!

Place a small stock pot over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, chopped onion, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add vegetable broth to the onions and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add peas and boil until just tender, about 4-5 minutes. *Don’t cook the peas for too long as they’ll lose their sweetness and vibrant green color!

Transfer soup to a blender, and add mint and creme fraiche. Blend until completely smooth. *Be careful when blending the hot liquid — make sure not to overfill your blender (if your blender is small, blend the soup in batches), and cover the top with a kitchen towel rather than a lid so that steam can escape while blending. If you find your soup to be too thick at this point, add vegetable broth, a little bit at a time, until you reach your desired consistency.

Transfer soup to a bowl and serve garnished with chopped mint, a drizzle of olive oil, and a drizzle of the creme fraiche and cream mixture. Serve hot or chilled.

serves: 2 as an appetizer, 1 as an entree