Cauliflower leek soup with smoked pepper flakes ~ Ham Pie Sandwiches

10 January 2013

Cauliflower leek soup with smoked pepper flakes

cauliflower leek soup with smoky pepper flakes and salad

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.

garlic toast soldiers

Cauliflower leek soup with smoked pepper flakes and garlic toast

olive oil
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
dry vermouth
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.

sauteed leeks

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.

cauliflower leek soup with smoky pepper flakes

We ate our soup with the aforementioned garlic toast. It was super simple.

Garlic toast

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?


Michelle said...

Man, you lucked out. My empty fridge meals never end up like that.

This looks fantastic!

Jes said...

Paprika flakes sound like the jam! I'm going to have to hunt them down the next time I'm in a town with a TJ's. And I love how your simple, use-it-up soup turned out so good. Looks like a perfect dinner to me!

Caz said...

It just shows how a few humble ingredients in the right hands can be turned in to an amazing meal! With the help of smoked pepper flakes of course. :) Love the table top shot too.

Hannah said...

That sounds completely amazing! I love clean-out-the-fridge soup, but mine aren't nearly as inspired. More often than not, I end up with something mostly pea-based, since I always have a pound or two sitting in the freezer. I'll just have to overstock on cauliflower and leeks next shopping trip, I suppose. ;)

elizabeth (bubbleteafordinner) said...

O_O that looks SO good. do you ever find that there are some nights where the energy is flowing (the cooking energy I think) better than usual and magic happens? that's also cool that you guys cook together, C and I do that too...bonding, ne?

Kat said...

Agree that soup is the best choice for left-over veggies. And that spontaneously assembled meals are often the best ones. I have never seen paprika in flake form - next time I'm at Trader Joe's I'll look for the seasoning.

Liza in Ann Arbor said...

Oooh, yum. I'm always looking for ways to use up leeks. Plus, I'd like to eat more vegetables soups as a first course so this looks to fit the bill perfectly.

Joanne said...

I don't think I've ever seen that grinder at TJ's but I'll definitely be on the lookout! I love the sound of this soup!

Monet said...

Just delicious. And I need to find some smoked pepper. I love when meals come together like that! Thank you for sharing with us. I hope you have a great start to your week. Stay healthy, happy, and warm!

Eileen said...

Yay; I'm so glad you guys like it! Emergency dinner win. :) I never would have even thought to look for smoked pepper flakes, so it's just a lucky coincidence that I even own them. The flakes definitely don't smell or taste like traditional smoked paprika--they're more like a smoke seasoning. Very interesting.

I've been throwing this stuff into my food willy-nilly. I tried some in a pan of refried beans, which turned out just subtly different, and SO good. Obviously, I highly recommend you get your hands on some!