As part of my final CSA share last month, I received two cauliflower. One came with a forlorn and sleepy traveler attached and the other was a beautiful bright orange. Both heads were looking a little roughed up and were browning, so I was a bit challenged as to what I was going to to do with one, let alone two.
Staring at the beautiful bright body of the ladybug and the orangeness of the other head, I was inspired. Why not take the idea of a cream of cauliflower soup and, instead of using a chemically created ‘orange’ cheddar to bring warmth to the soup, use the natural colours of this cauliflower to do the same? Well, the proof is emphatically in the bowl. The orange florets, a pinch of paprika, and the roasting produced a bowl of warmth you’ll just love to dive into.
For those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile, you know that I’m a big believer in the power of “roasting” to bring out deeper, richer, and even sweeter flavours in veggies, so it should come as no surprise that one of the secrets to this soup is the fact that I chose to roast the cauliflower first. For those of you have never tasted roasted cauliflower, however, you’re missing something amazing … and all the more amazing for all it’s simplicity. Cut up the florets, toss them with some olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning salt and pepper and roast for 20-30 minutes to produce something that takes this maligned veggie from “oh-hum, not cauliflower” to “can I have more.” Try it and be amazed …. Oh, and it is amazing in the soup too. (Yes, I know that’s a lot of amazing ….)
A few cooking tips: use a very sharp cheddar (2-years old or older) as this doesn’t just add personality, it adds a soul to the soup; the feta was a late addition to the soup for the same reason and it vaulted the soup to superstar; finally, don’t purée the soup in a blender — use an immersion blender so that there is a bit of coarseness and some tooth-feel to the soup. I also used a gluten-free blend of flours to make the roux in this soup, but use all-purpose flour if you’re not gluten-sensitive. All the other ingredients are fall staples that last well into the winter and so should this soup (in your freezer) if any of it makes it way back from the table.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 60 minutes
Total Time: Roughly an hour
Roasted Cauliflower and Cheese Soup
- 2 medium heads of cauliflower (approximately 3lbs), preferably orange
→ cut into florets
- 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
- seasoning salt
- freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 large leek (1½ cups), cleaned and sliced
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
→ or use gluten-free flour
(e.g. measure together equal parts of chickpea flour, rice flour, and potato flour)
- 2 cloves garlic, diced
- 3 cups high-quality chicken broth (preferably homemade)
- 2 cups 2% milk
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 2 leaves (1/2 teaspoon) fresh sage, chopped
- 4 tablespoons parsley, chiffonade
- 1-2 sprigs (1/2 teaspoon) fresh thyme leaves, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1 cup (4 ounces) aged white cheddar, grated
- 1/2 cup (2 ounces) feta, crumbled
- 1 tablespoon agave syrup (or honey), to taste
- salt and pepper to taste
- More cheese to serve (optional)
- Preheat your oven (or barbecue) to 425ºF and prepare a large roasting/baking sheet or two medium sheets. I strongly recommend earthenware sheets for this to promote the browning of the cauliflower. For this same reason, do not use parchment paper or a Silpat or anything else to make for easy clean up.
- Using a sharp paring knife, cut out the tough core and the outer leaves of the cauliflower heads. Wash well under hot water to clean (and remove any tenacious bugs), and shake dry. Then use the knife to cut the heads into equal sized florets: do not chop or you’ll end up with burnt cauliflower.
Toss the florets in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil to coat evenly and layer out onto the roasting sheet(s).
Sprinkle with season salt and pepper and roast for 15 minutes. Remove and flip the florets and return to oven for another 30 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cauliflower cool on the sheet while you do your other prep.
- In a soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the cleaned/sliced leeks to the butter and increase temperature to medium-high. Sauté for roughly 5 minutes until very lightly browned.
Add the garlic and sauté for another minute.
- Stir in the flour and cook for another minute or two, until butter has been absorbed and flour has cooked a bit.
- Gradually whisk in 1 cup of the chicken stock now, stirring/whisking constantly to avoid any lumps.
Then add in the rest of the stock.
- Stir in the herbs: sage, thyme, and parsley.
And then add in the roasted cauliflower.
And add in the milk and cream.
Bring soup to a boil and cover and then simmer for 10 minutes, until the cauliflower is easily tender.
- When cauliflower is ready, use an immersion blender to purée the soup until all the florets have been incorporated into the soup. However, the soup will still have significant texture (this is good). Sprinkle in the paprika. This is only for a bit of colour and warmth.
- Add the grated cheddar and the crumbled feta to the soup now (and definitely not before blending or you’ll have a real mess).
- Your soup should have a nice thickness to it at this point, but adjust as you like. Add salt, pepper, and agave (or honey) to taste.
- Serve with more freshly grated cheese or fresh chives for some colour.
Note: Soup can be made a day in advance. It is also an excellent addition to your freezer for those winter days that demand comfort food.