Over the years, cauliflower and I have had a rather rocky relationship. I find cauliflower oddly dry, dull in flavor and gas-inducing. Cauliflower finds me unsympathetic, judgmental and impatient. This past spring, cauliflower and I had a brief period of reconciliation spawned by my mother’s delicious cauliflower gratin; maybe it had something to do with the gratin’s metric ton of butter and parmesan, or that I was on my third glass of pinot noir, but regardless, cauliflower and I kissed and made up for a short time until I eventually went back to my old ways, dismissing the crucifer and ignoring requests from Hubs for anything with cauliflower.
When I thought of doing this soup series, I made a list of ideas, inspirations and plans of action, and – being the wonderfully open, forgiving soul that I am – I thought that this series would be a great way for me to finally make amends. This, of course, was all on my own accord and had nothing to do with the incessant suggestions from Hubs to cook some freaking cauliflower already.
After a little hemming and hawing, I gave in and got to work on a recipe. First task: Completely masking the flavor of cauliflower. Kidding! Let’s use the word “enhance” instead. To enhance the flavor of cauliflower, I added some fennel bulb, cherry tomatoes, and plenty of roasted garlic. Fennel bulb is a rather new addition to my vegetable repertoire; funky and pungent in its raw state, fennel takes on a delicate, sweet flavor once it’s cooked, and even more so when it’s roasted. Cherry tomatoes and garlic are a no-brainer, of course – it’s hard to go wrong with those two.
Once the veggies are roasted, they’re thrown into a pot of boiling broth – cook’s choice whether to use chicken or veggie broth, here – and are allowed to mix and mingle for a while before getting whizzed together with the help of the (say it with me, now) handy dandy immersion blender! Initially, Hubs wanted me to keep this a chunky soup, but the odd shapes of the cauliflower chunks were aesthetically off-putting – ergo, whizzing with the (say it with me, folks) handy dandy – oh, fine. I’ll stop.
But wait, there’s more! The soup is topped off with crispy, delicate and insanely delicious parmesan crisps, which not only look fancy, but are an absolute cinch to make: Baking pan. Parmesan. Melt. Cool. Done. See?
For the inaugural recipe for the soup series, I propose a toast: To eating well, eating wisely, and eating with plenty of friends in 2012. Until next week, friends!
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Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Parmesan Crisps
For the Soup:
1 Fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 (2 lb.) Cauliflower head, chopped
1 c. Cherry tomatoes, halved
3-5 Cloves of garlic, whole
5 c. Chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 c. Mascarpone cheese
Olive oil, salt and pepper
For the Parmesan Crisps:
1 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 400°. On a large baking sheet, toss the sliced fennel, chopped cauliflower, halved cherry tomatoes and garlic cloves with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 30 minutes, stirring half way through, until the veggies are softened and beginning to brown. Remove the garlic cloves from the mixture and set aside.
In a large soup pot, bring the broth to a boil. Once boiling, add the roasted veggies (everything but the garlic). Peel the garlic cloves and place them in a separate bowl, and mash with a fork. Add the mashed garlic to the soup pot. Reduce the heat to low and allow the soup to simmer about 20 minutes.
Off the heat, blend the soup in a blender, food processor, or using an immersion blender (working in batches, if need be). Pour the soup back into the pot and add the mascarpone, stirring until the mascarpone is completely melted. Serve with parmesan crisps.
To make the parmesan crisps, keep the oven at 400°. On a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper (either are highly recommended; a bare sheet is hard to work with), place 2-tablespoon piles of parmesan onto the sheet, pressing down lightly. Bake for 4-5 minutes, until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown. Remove immediately and allow to cool slightly before removing from the sheet. Store in an airtight container up to three days.
* If the above slideshow doesn’t load, you can view all the photos from this recipe on Flickr.
Laura is a regular contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. She was born and raised in Fayetteville, but has recently moved to Boulder, Colorado. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and avid cook. For more from Laura, see her past stories, visit Flyer Foodie on Facebook or check out Prana & Pie.