Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A good soup attracts chairs.

African proverb

Thin or thick, chunky or smooth, soup is the universal comfort food, the primordial symbol of nourishment. Curative properties are ascribed to soup in every known culture, and I wouldn’t be surprised if, in many cases, it is the cure is for emotional hunger as well as for physical need.

It might seem like a big project to keep homemade soup on hand as a staple in your household, but once you get into the habit, it will feel absolutely ordinary and essential.

Try setting aside some time on a regular basis to make a soup of the week. A surefire formula, exemplified by today’s recipe, is to cook a melange of flavorful vegetables in water (which transforms the water into broth) and puree some or all of the vegetables to thicken the mix. Extra touches (herbs, dairy or soy, garnishes, etc.) can make it even more satisfying and beautiful.

Keep in mind that soup also provides a great opportunity to expand your vegetable repertoire, giving you a chance to use (and more greatly appreciate) some of the less-common vegetables, such as the cauliflower in this one.

Most soups refrigerate and reheat very well. So make big batches on a regular basis and keep yourself and your family happy and warm throughout the winter.

Cauliflower-cheese soup

1 large cauliflower, cut or broken into florets

1 medium-large russet potato, peeled and diced (about 2 to 3 cups diced)

1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped

3 medium cloves garlic, peeled

1½ cups chopped onion

1½ teaspoons salt

4 cups water

2 cups (packed measure) grated sharp cheddar (plus extra for the top)

3/4 cup milk (low-fat OK)

1 tablespoon minced fresh dill

1 teaspoon lightly toasted cumin seeds (optional)

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put aside about 2 cups of the cauliflower florets. Combine the rest of them with the potato, carrot, garlic, onion, salt and water in a Dutch oven or soup pot. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until all the vegetables are very tender. Puree in a blender or food processor (or right in the pot with an immersion blender) and return to the stove.

Steam the reserved cauliflower florets until just tender. Add these to the puree along with all the remaining ingredients. Heat gently, and serve hot, topped with a little extra cheese. Makes 6 servings.


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