Monday, October 29, 2012

Indian-style cauliflower soup with peas

This soup is such a sunny looking soup, no? Perfect for any breezy or rainy fall day. It is cheery and delicious. Somewhere I read about a creamy cauliflower soup that got my thinking but after looking at a few cream soaked recipes, I was discouraged. Don't get me wrong, I am not one to shy away from the full-fat dairy products. However, for me, the decision is always about flavor. Too often "cream of" dishes are leaden and, after the first few bites, rather dull.
I learned from making this potato leek soup, sometimes, to bring the flavor out of a creamy soup, the best place to start is by taking out the cream.

This recipe is from the Santa Monica Farmers' Market Cookbook by Amelia Saltsman. The book is structured around what can be found at a Southern California Farmer's Market during the season's of the year. The recipes are unique but not pretentious or too out of reach for a home cook like myself.

If you are looking for a simple change-up to your fall soup repertoire, I would recommend giving this soup a try. It is the perfect combination of warm spice and zingy lime.

Indian-style cauliflower soup with peas

2 tablespoons canola or other mild cooking oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 large head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), cut into small florets
1/2 cup water
4 to 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup shelled English peas, about 1 pound in the pod (or 1 cup frozen peas)
1/2 lime
small handful each of fresh mint leaves, chives, and cilantro leaves, chopped

1) In a wide pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and stir until brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the ground spices, pepper flakes, and salt and cook until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds.

2) Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the remaining tablespoon oil and the onion, and saute until translucent and soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook 1 minute.

3) Stir in the cauliflower and water, cover, raise the heat to medium, and cook for 5 minutes. (This is a genius step. It's like a spiced steam bath for the cauliflower.) Add 4 cups stock, re-cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently until very tender, 15-20 minutes.

4) Use an immersion or stand blender to puree the soup, leaving a little texture. Add the remaining 2 cups stock as needed to achieve the consistency of heavy cream. Return the soup to medium-low heat, add the peas, cover, and simmer until the peas are tender but still bright green, about 5 minutes. (If using frozen peas, it will take even less time.)

5) Give the soup a squeeze of lime and serve with a sprinkling of the herbs.

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