I just had a taste for soup. A simple one-pot meal that I could eat off of for a couple of days. I don’t make cheese soups often. I’m a soup maker forever, but for some reason have usually skipped making the creamy, sometimes stringy, more-cheese-than-broccoli type soups so often sold in restaurants. The only thing like that I ever order out is beer-cheese soup in a brew pub and then it’s with a salad because that stuff will stick to your ribs.
I kept picturing the bag of Costco cauliflower florets (2 pounds for $3.79) I had in the spare fridge. And the lovely cheddar my local grocery store cheesemonger had pressed on me recently. The two needed to meet and mingle, perhaps blend and marry their distinct, but complimentary flavors.
It was a quiet day–just the dogs and me at home…along with a few friends in the back yard. It wasn’t cold, but the wind was up and the snow was still cold in the shade where the local girls lapped it up for water. It’s so dry here we had two grass fires nearby last Friday afternoon.
This is a meal–not just a little bowl of soup. It’s filling, hearty, and heart-warming. Maybe a little addictive as only cheese can be. All right, it’s more than a little addictive. It’ll be thrilling if you have a few friends for a cold day’s lunch, but will be just as happy in a family full of meat lovers after skiing as it’s done very quickly. For a larger meal, add some corn bread or whole wheat crackers and a crunchy bowl of greens. Even a small tray of fresh vegetables would be beautiful, but seriously, no dip needed. I give easy instructions below for the few changes it will take to make a vegetarian or vegan meal and it’s naturally gluten-free. You could also make the vegan version and let the omnivores add grated cheese and bacon at the table if both diets are needed.
Watch yourself, you’ll want more than you should, but why not? Maybe it’ll take your mind off the election. Hmph. Try this, maybe with a little John Legend to cook by:
CAULIFLOWER-CHEESE SOUP WITH BACON AND WINE
For a vegetarian version: Make as directed except… 1. Skip the bacon and begin with 2 tablespoons olive oil for cooking the vegetables 2. use vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth.
For a vegan version: Make as direct except… Follow 1 and 2 above plus 3. Sub rice or almond milk for the (dairy) milk and 4. Skip the cheese. Blend the soup briefly instead of totally pureeing it. Garnish with only the green onions, though some crunchy garlicky croutons might be perfect, too. (Vegan changes are notes in green parentheses. Use gluten-free bread for croutons if needed.)
- Olive oil
- 4 slices thick-cut bacon cut into 1/2-inch pieces (Omit and use 2 tablespoons olive oil)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 stalks celery, sliced thinly
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced thinly
- Handful fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 medium potato, peeled and diced
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric (Can sub curry powder or even mustard powder in a pinch.)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- Pinch crushed red pepper
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 cup water
- 1 quart low sodium chicken broth (Vegetable broth)
- 1 pound cauliflower florets
- 1 cup milk or half-and-half or cream (Rice or Almond milk)
- 1/2 pound (8 ounces–2 cups) grated sharp cheddar* (Omit.)
- 4 scallions (green and white parts) minced for garnish (Can also add croutons)
To a heavy 6-quart soup pot, add a tablespoon of olive oil and heat over medium flame. Add chopped bacon and cook until crisp. Remove to toweling to drain; reserve. Cook onion, garlic, celery, carrot, parsley, potato, turmeric, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper in the bacon grease until vegetables are tender — about 10 minutes. Pour in wine and cook another few minutes until the wine is reduced and incorporated. Pour in water and broth; bring to a boil.
Add cauliflower, reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook until cauliflower is very tender-but not mushy-perhaps 10 minutes. Add milk and let heat another minute or two until warm; do not boil. Purée in the pot using an immersion blender or carefully in batches in a food processor. (Alternately, purée just half of the soup if you like a more chunky soup.) Return to pot if you used the food processor and heat through until quite warm again. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add cheese, leaving on heat until just melted. Do not boil. Taste again and adjust seasonings if needed. Serve hot garnished with scallions and bacon.
*Buy the best Cheddar you can find–aged and white are good qualities! By the way, the color in the soup is from the turmeric.
And since it’s Burns’ Day, we’ll say the Selkirk Grace:
[On a visit to St. Mary's Isle, Burns was requested by the noble owner to say grace to dinner; he obeyed in these lines, now known in Galloway by the name of "The Selkirk Grace."]
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thanket.
courtesy The Literature Network
A cauliflower primer here.
COSTS: I like to buy a 2-pound bag of florets at Costco in the winter. Total cost per serving = approximately $2.40 and I used $11.99 a pound gorgeous Cheddar. Just for grins and giggles. Or not.
WINE: I’m just going to be an old stick in the mud and say Chardonnay or White Burgundy. You won’t be sorry.
DESSERT: I’m not eating dessert. Wait for spring.
Sing a new song,