10 January 2013
Cauliflower leek soup with smoked pepper flakes
Let's continue the new year by catching up on something I made before we even flew out to Michigan, okay?
The night before we left, we were doing the responsible thing and trying to eat everything perishable in the refrigerator. This included a cauliflower, a couple leeks, a potato (okay, that was in the cabinet), the tail end of a loaf of sourdough, and an entire head of red-leaf lettuce. Clearly, this called for soup and salad.
You'd think a soup created from a random assortment of veg on the turn would not be that interesting. NOPE. This was one of the best dinners we'd had in ages.
The key was smoked pepper.
My friend Gus just moved overseas, which is very sad, and we will miss her. Actually, two different sets of my friends have moved overseas within the past 6 months. Boo! But one side effect is that I was one of the lucky recipients of half a kitchen's worth of various food and spices. And that's how I came to own a grinder full of Trader Joe's South African smoke seasoning--which is to say, full of paprika flakes (have any of you even seen paprika in flake form?), sea salt, garlic, and basil--with an unmistakable smoke scent and flavor.
Why have I never eaten such a thing before? I mean, in our half-vegetarian household, bacon has never been a particularly viable flavoring agent. So we've had to get our dose of smokiness through bottled smoke seasoning or smoked cheese. But now? Now there is a third way. I'm SUPER EXCITED.
So I made cauliflower leek soup with smoked pepper flakes, and it turned out to be amazing. While the soup was cooking, John made the sourdough into garlic toast fingers. Those were also amazing. Then we tore up the lettuce and made salads with homemade vinaigrette. In short, it was just about the best possible clean-out-the-fridge dinner ever.
Cauliflower leek soup with smoked pepper flakes and garlic toast
vegetable or bean broth
smoked red pepper flake, marjoram, thyme, sage, salt, pepper
if I'd had any dry mustard I would totally have added some of that too
yogurt, sambal, and/or parsley for garnish
Start by warming a slug of olive oil in the bottom of a large soup pot. If you don't have any veg broth, start up a batch in a separate pot.
Split a couple leeks lengthwise and wash them thoroughly under cold running water. Trim them, chop them into inch-long pieces, and add them to the soup pot with a pinch of salt. Stir to distribute the oil. Cook for a few minutes while you prep all the other vegetables.
Notice the ethereal glow of slowly melting leeks. NICE.
Scrub, halve, and slice a potato or two. Core a cauliflower and chop it into small pieces. Don't worry about keeping the florets intact; you're going to puree the finished soup anyway.
When your leeks have softened, after about five minutes of cooking, add your potato and cauliflower to the pot. Season with smoked red pepper flake, marjoram, thyme, sage, and a bit more salt. Stir it all up and cook for another five minutes or so. Deglaze as needed with the dry vermouth (or dry white wine if you happen to be drinking some).
Next, add broth to cover. Bring the pot to a boil, lid, lower the heat, and simmer until all your vegetables are cooked through. Our soup probably took ten or fifteen minutes.
Take the pot or soup off the heat, puree with an immersion blender, taste, and correct seasonings, adding black pepper if nothing else. Cook your soup down a bit if you want a thicker texture. Otherwise, go ahead and serve it.
I think a garnish of additional smoked pepper flakes would go pretty well here. I had mine with a big spoonful of plain yogurt and one of sambal oelek, which, as you may have noticed, are a couple of my default soup garnishes.
We ate our soup with the aforementioned garlic toast. It was super simple.
clove of garlic
Toast sliced sourdough until deep golden. Let it rest and harden up for a minute while you peel a clove of garlic and cut it in half. Rub each slice of bread with the cut side of the garlic, covering one entire side. The garlic will grate a bit against the rough toasted texture of the bread.
Cut your slices of bread into little strips to serve. Dip them into your hot soup and eat them all.
Which hot, comforting winter soups are you guys eating this January?