Saturday, April 7, 2018

April Fool!

What’s cooking? Cauliflower Soup and Roasted Cauliflower with Raisins and Almonds

My friend Kathrin Bergin in NJ posted this less than a week ago.

I know it’s spring because the flowering trees in Texas have bloomed, and the bluebonnets are out. Yesterday, it hit 84 degrees. But when I woke up today, it was 47. And as I type this, it’s dropped to 43, with a wind chill of 36. I checked my phone for the weather conditions in those cities where my children live, and the temperature was the same as here in Allentown, PA, Philadelphia, and NYC. It’s APRIL, for goodness sake – would someone please tell Mother Nature?

My beleaguered daughter-in-law – mother of a lively 4-year old and 6-year-old – says, “the most recent snow day was supposed to be a holiday, but since we’ve had so many snow days, it was changed to a make-up day. So we had a snow day on a make-up snow day and we will continue to have snow days forever because spring has forsaken us and all hope is lost... but other than that, everything is peachy.”

So I’ve been thinking all day about what I can post that will raise my DIL’s spirits and get the warmth in my toes back. And I think cauliflower soup may be just the thing.  Back in February, I discovered a recipe from the folks at America’s Test Kitchen that is really something: a truly creamy soup without an ounce of cream.

Then while I was thinking about that soup, I recalled that I’ve not posted about another cauliflower recipe I liked from the March issue of Food & Wine magazine. They called it a Cauliflower Korma, a reference to a classic Indian dish in which meat or vegetables are braised in a yogurt sauce. The treatment in this case adds raisins and almonds and places the sauce under the vegetables, which was just unusual enough to pique the Kitchen Goddess’s interest.

The appearance of these two recipes for cauliflower confirms a suspicion I’ve had for a while, which is that cauliflower is a rising star in the food firmament. Sooo... you heard it here. The Kitchen Goddess is In. The. Know.

Cauliflower Soup

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen.

Aside from the short cooking time – total, including prep, is less than an hour and 15 minutes – the best thing about this soup is the flavor, which comes about by having some of the vegetable cooked more than the rest. It turns out that cauliflower cooked just a little has a light, grassy flavor, while cauliflower cooked a lot longer has a warm, lightly sweet and nutty flavor. So when you add the cauliflower in two stages, you get a remarkable combination of both flavors. And when you top the soup off with fried florets and a drizzle of brown butter, you get my hubby to say, “This is really good,” instead of “Yes, but it’s still cauliflower.”

Serves 4-6.

1 head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), outer leaves removed
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 leek (white and light green parts only), halved lengthwise, sliced thin, and rinsed well
1 small onion, halved and sliced thin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 cups water
½ teaspoon sherry vinegar

Cut out the core and stem of the cauliflower and trim off the fibrous outer layer. Cut the trimmed stem crosswise into thin slices, about ¼-inch thick. Separate enough ½-inch florets to make a heaping cupful and reserve. Slice the remains of the head into ½-inch thick slabs.

Note that the KG does her cauliflower deconstructing in a rimmed baking sheet, thus containing the mess.

In a 4-5-quart Dutch oven over medium/medium-low heat, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter and add the leek, onion, and 1½ teaspoons of salt. Sauté, stirring often, until the vegetables are softened but not browned (7-8 minutes).

Add the water and half of the cauliflower slabs, including all of the sliced core, and stir. Raise the heat to bring the mix to a simmer, then adjust down enough to keep that simmer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Add the remaining cauliflower – except for the cup of florets – and stir. Return the liquid to a simmer and continue to simmer the soup until the cauliflower is tender, which should take another 15-20 minutes.

While the soup simmers, melt the other 5 tablespoons of butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the reserved florets and cook, stirring constantly, for 6-8 minutes, until the florets begin to take on a brown crust and the butter is well browned. At this point, the butter should have a slightly nutty smell. Remove the pan from the heat and use a slotted spoon to strain out the florets from the butter. Save the butter and florets separately in small bowls.

Sprinkle the vinegar over the bowl with the florets and add salt to taste. Stir. Reserve.

When the cauliflower in the soup is tender, remove the pot from the heat and process the soup in a blender for 1-2 minutes until it is very smooth. If it seems too thick, add water a few tablespoons at a time to get a consistency you like. Ideally, the soup should be just thin enough to settle back into a flat surface after being stirred.

You may want to return the soup to the pot and reheat – just remember to remove any remnants of cauliflower from the pot before you do. Season with freshly ground black pepper to taste. To serve, garnish each serving with a few of the browned florets, and drizzle on a teaspoon or two of the brown butter.

* * *

Cauliflower Korma with Blackened Raisins

Adapted from Food & Wine magazine, March 2018.

This dish uses a exotic mix of warm spices redolent of India – ginger, cardamom, and garam masala, which itself is a mix of spices. If you don’t have garam masala, you should be able to find it in the bulk spice aisle of your supermarket.

The KG loves the unusual presentation of this dish: the sauce is under the veggies. And note that this recipe also includes blackened raisins – another flavor profile that’s trending now... We are nothing if not trendy at Spoon & Ink.

Serves 4-6.

One large (2-pound) head of cauliflower, or two small heads
4 tablespoons (divided) canola oil, or other flavorless oil like grapeseed
kosher salt
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 piece fresh ginger, about 1½ inches, peeled and finely grated (use a rasp)
1 rounded teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
pinch of cayenne pepper, or ¼ teaspoon Aleppo pepper
½ cup ground almonds, or almond meal (from bulk aisle of supermarket)
1 tablespoon honey
6 ounces plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
½ cup whole milk (can use 2%)
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350º.

Remove the cauliflower stem and trim off the tough outer layer. Slice the stem into thin (⅛-inch thick) disks. Break the cauliflower into bite-sized florets (about 1 inch across). In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower with 2 tablespoons of the oil and ½ teaspoon salt. Spread the cauliflower in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet lined with either parchment or foil. Roast the cauliflower for 40-50 minutes, until it’s tender and lightly browned. Kitchen Goddess note: If the cauliflower is tender but not browned, run it under the broiler for a minute.

While the cauliflower is cooking, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to a large skillet over medium/medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook 10-12 minutes, stirring often, until they are soft and lightly caramelized. Add the garlic and ginger and continue to stir about 1 minute, or until fragrant, then add the four spices. Once the spices are well mixed in, add the ground almonds, honey, and ¾ teaspoon salt.

Stir continuously for about 2 minutes, until the almond meal clings to the onions, then add the yogurt and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer the sauce 8-10 minutes, until it thickens and turns lightly golden. Add the milk, stirring for 2-3 minutes or until the sauce is smooth and will coat the back of a spoon. At that point, remove the sauce from the heat and season to taste with salt. Cover until ready to serve.

Set a small skillet over medium heat and add the raisins and sliced almonds. Cook, stirring – you can shake the pan instead if you prefer. The goal is to let the raisins – but not the almonds – burn a little. The raisins will puff up as they start to blacken. This will all take about 3 minutes.

To serve, pour the sauce into a large plate and spread it around with a spoon. Add the cauliflower and top the presentation with the raisins and almonds.

Kitchen Goddess note: Food & Wine recommends serving this dish with a dry Gewürztraminer.

Stay warm and hopeful – spring will come for sure one of these days!

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