About this time last year, when we were still living in Woods Hole, I made a silky-smooth cauliflower soup spiked with coconut milk and green Thai chili paste (which I’ve always called chili paste, but which actually reads “green curry paste” on the label, I just discovered). At first, my husband turned up his nose at the concept of cauliflower soup, but our friend Peter, who is less discriminating when it comes to plain-tasting foods, liked it. Together we convinced my husband that cauliflower isn’t the horribly boring brainy vegetable it poses as on the produce shelf. I promised Peter I’d teach him to make it before we left, but summer came and soups disappeared from our kitchen vocabulary, and we never made it again.
Today is Peter’s birthday, so last night I bought some cauliflower, thinking I’d write up the recipe for him. (As a side note, what do you think supermarket checkers think when a woman buys just a head of cauliflower? I mean, just milk or just bagels is one thing, but I think as a checker I might create elaborate, misguided suspicions if a person bought just a head of cauliflower. What might I be suspicious of, though? It’s not as if cauliflower is a weapon. I guess I’m just self-conscious of my newfound love of cauliflower.)
Anyway, when I picked up my pen to sketch out the recipe, I was instantly overwhelmed by the amount of green curry paste in my life, and couldn’t do it. So here’s a different version of cauliflower soup, smooth and creamy because it’s well-pureed, not because it’s high-fat. Real buttermilk from Sea Breeze Farm (found at the University District farmer’s market) gives it a nice tang.
If you want to make Peter’s soup, substitute a can of coconut milk and about a teaspoon of green curry paste for the buttermilk.
Recipe for Silky Cauliflower Soup with Buttermilk
Recipe 51 of 365
When I lived in Paris, my host mother, Mme Jacqueau, almost always started the evening meal with a thick, simple soup. Though she was Catholic to the bone, the way she urged the three Americans living with her to take second helpings of her soups would have made her a good candidate for a pushy Jewish mother. The soups were always simple, like this one, with just enough je ne sais quoi to make them interesting.
Use real, fresh buttermilk and tangy, raw goat’s milk cheese from a farmer’s market, if you can find it. You could also substitute regular milk, heavy cream, or coconut milk for the buttermilk.
TIME: 15 minutes active cooking time
MAKES: 8 smallish servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper (use white pepper if you have it)
1 (2 1/2-pound) head cauliflower, leaves removed and rinsed
1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups real buttermilk
Crumbled goat cheese and chopped fresh herbs for garnish (optional)
Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. When hot, add the oil, then the onions, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions begin to soften, about 5 minutes. (Do not let the onions brown).
Meanwhile, cut the florets away from the cauliflower’s core, discard the core, and cut the cauliflower into 1” pieces.
Add the cauliflower and the broth to the onions. Season again with salt and pepper, increase heat to high, and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until the cauliflower is completely soft, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat and stir in the buttermilk.
Carefully puree the soup in small batches in a food processor or blender. Return the soup to the (cleaned) pot, season to taste with salt and pepper, and gently reheat, if necessary. Serve hot in small bowls, garnished with goat cheese and herbs, if desired.