cream of cauliflower soup (with floating asparagus)

Continuing our recent period exploring cream soups, we try the cauliflower route again many years after several other versions we had tried. This time a new cooking magazine impulse buy has a recipe with a similar onion, leek, celery base that has proved so successful so far with our other cream soups, and the photo looked pretty convincing with the little asparagus  pieces floating in the bowl. Every recipe photographed, how could we resist.

ingredients

base
4 t olive oil (we used 2 T)
1 small onion
1 celery stalk (we used 3)
1 leek (we used almost 2)
salt to taste to bring out flavors
addins
5 c veggie broth
1 head cauliflower, chopped
1 small potato, peeled and food processed
1 t dried thyme
finishers
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1-2 c lowfat milk
1/4 chopped parsley (optional)
1/2 lb asparagus, cut into 1 in pieces (optional)

instructions

  1. Food process the cleaned onion, celery and leek together and saute in olive oil with a bit of salt to bring out the flavor (?) in a large flat-bottomed nonstick pot until softened, say 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile boil the water in a teapot for the concentrated veggie broth. Combine together and dump into the soup mixture when ready.
  3. Meanwhile clean the cauliflower and cut out the hard core, chop up the florets a bit. We used the extra time to spray them lightly with olive oil and broil them on a cooking sheet under close supervision for somewhat less than 10 minutes until they started to brown, to precook them slightly. Probably not necessary.
  4. Add the broth to the base, stir in the food processed potato, dump in the cauliflower, and add the thyme. We had some "fresh" thyme in the freezer, which we used instead of the dried thyme.
  5. Simmer for about 45 minutes.
  6. Add the milk (amount depending on how thick you want the soup to be) and puree with a hand blender.
  7. Optional Step. If you have a chinois (fancy funnel shaped French strainer with a wooden wedge roller) and some patience, you can pass this through it in several batches, rotating the wooden tool around in a circle to squeeze the puree through the fine mesh in a slow process. We decided to help it along by pureeing further the resistant part of the slop in our Vita-Mix super blender. With persistence, we were able to force most of the soup through with very little residual loss in large grain residue. This experience lessened our suspicion of this kitchen tool, which initially impressed us as a fiber and nutrition stealer. Apparently its main function is to refine the puree through the forcing action of wood against mesh.
  8. Add salt and pepper to taste and the optional parsley if desired. Then reheat through slightly and serve.
  9. Optional finisher. Cook the asparagus following the standard game plan. Then cut off the tougher lower portions to serve as a side dish and cut the tender upper halves into 1 in pieces to add to each serving as a nice complementary touch, together with freshly ground pepper on each serving, or Middle Eastern red pepper (paprika in a pinch) to kick it up a notch.

notes

  1. healthy cooking, February, 2003, p. 54.
  2. Illustration.
ccaulsp.htm: 16-aug-2006 [what, ME cook? 1984 dr bob enterprises]