Creamy Cauliflower SoupI always approach a Cook’s Illustrated recipe with a mature sense of calmness. Take a deep breath. Understand the steps involved. If I follow the rules, I get a wonderful dish. At first, I was wary of yet another creamy soup, but take a look at the levels of cauliflower in the “Creamy Cauliflower Soup,” from the September/October 2013 issue of Cook’s Illustrated (recipe below). Yes, I said “levels of cauliflower…

Creamy Cauliflower Soup
Cook’s Illustrated, September/October 2013
Serves 4 to 6
White wine vinegar may be substituted for the sherry vinegar. Be sure to thoroughly trim the cauliflower’s core of green leaves and leaf stems, which can be fibrous and contribute to a grainy texture in the soup.

1 head cauliflower (2 lbs.)
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 leek, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced thin, and washed thoroughly
1 small onion, halved and sliced thin
Salt
 and pepper
4 1/2-5 cups water
1/2 tsp. sherry vinegar
3 Tbsp. minced fresh chives

1. Pull off outer leaves of cauliflower and trim stem. Using paring knife, cut around core to remove; thinly slice core and reserve. Cut heaping 1 cup of 1/2-inch florets from head of cauliflower; set aside. Cut remaining cauliflower crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices.

2. Melt 3 Tbsp. butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add leek, onion, and 1 1/2 tsp. salt; cook, stirring frequently, until leek and onion are softened but not browned, about 7 minutes.

3. Increase heat to medium-high; add 4 1/2 cups water, sliced core, and half of sliced cauliflower; and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Add remaining sliced cauliflower, return to simmer, and continue to cook until cauliflower is tender and crumbles easily, 15 to 20 minutes longer.

4. While soup simmers, melt remaining 5 Tbsp. butter in 8-inch skillet over medium heat. Add reserved florets and cook, stirring frequently, until florets are golden brown and butter is browned and imparts nutty aroma, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and use slotted spoon to transfer florets to small bowl. Toss florets with vinegar and season with salt to taste. Pour browned butter in skillet into small bowl and reserve for garnishing.

5. Process soup in blender until smooth, about 45 seconds. Rinse out pan. Return pureed soup to pan and return to simmer over medium heat, adjusting consistency with remaining water as needed (soup should have thick, velvety texture but should be thin enough to settle with flat surface after being stirred) and seasoning with salt to taste. Serve, garnishing individual bowls with browned florets, drizzle of browned butter, and chives and seasoning with pepper to taste.

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Although there are steps to follow to assemble this soup, they are easy enough, here. And I felt so resourceful to actually include the cauliflower core, rather than throwing it away! While I respect Cook’s Illustrated for all of its hyper-tested accuracy, I couldn’t understand why I should bother pouring the soup out into a blender, cleaning the pot, then pouring the blended soup back into the pot. Instead, I chose to use my immersion blender right in the soup pot. That’s it. Done. The soup was thick, like potato soup. I added 1 tsp. salt at the end.

Understand that one whole stick of butter is included in this soup. Butter flavor is pronounced (good!) and a full blast of cauliflower goodness rewards you. Everyone loved this soup…

Wheat Berry, Kale, and Cranberry Salad…and I hoped to extend the love and adoration with the “Wheat Berry, Kale, and Cranberry Salad,” from the September 2013 issue of Cooking Light. Know this: it’s a spicy, bitter salad made with adorable baby kale, sweet dried fruits (I combined dried currants with my dried cranberries), and a very light vinaigrette. I really enjoyed it. But I was alone.

I increased this salad recipe to make 6 servings (and they were all for me!). Oh well. I made sure to soak my wheat berries overnight, to soften them a bit for cooking. They cook plump, firmer than rice.

PRICES:
Cauliflower (1 head) = $5.05
Leek (1) = .55¢
Onion (1) = .68¢
Baby Kale (6 cups) = $6.66
Red Onion (1) = .36¢

PREP TIMES: allow an hour or more to prep and cook the soup; soak wheat berries overnight, then cook for 50 minutes
TASTES:
buttery cauliflower is dreamy; baby kale kicks you with a spicy bitterness

Next time, I will cook the “Tsukune (Japanese Chicken Meatballs),” again from the September 2013 issue of Cooking Light, along with the “Pea & Cheddar Salad,” from the August 2013 issue of Cuisine at Home (recipe below). Come back to my site next week, to see my meal.

Pea & Cheddar Salad
Cuisine at Home, August 2013
4 servings

Cook:
4 strips thick-sliced bacon, diced

Combine:
3 cups frozen peas, thawed and drained
1/2 cup diced cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sliced scallions
6 Tbsp. mayonnaise
4 tsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook bacon in a skillet until crisp. Transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate.

Combine peas, cheddar and scallions in a bowl. Whisk together mayonnaise, lemon juice and Dijon and stir into pea mixture. Season salad with salt and pepper. Stir in bacon right before serving.