For a creamy cauliflower soup without cream, we relied on cauliflower’s low insoluble fiber content to produce a velvety smooth puree.
To ensure that cauliflower flavor remained at the forefront, we cooked the cauliflower in seasoned water (instead of broth), skipped the spice rack entirely, and bolstered the soup with sauteed onion and leek.
We added the cauliflower to the simmering water in two stages so that we got the grassy flavor of just-cooked cauliflower and the sweeter, nuttier flavor of long-cooked cauliflower. Finally, we fried florets in butter until both browned and used each as a separate, richly flavored garnish.
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CREAMY CAULIFLOWER SOUP
Start to finish: 1 hour 30 minutes
1 head cauliflower (2 pounds)
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8 tablespoons 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 teaspoon sherry vinegar
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives
Pull off outer leaves of cauliflower and trim stem. Using paring knife, cut around core to remove; slice core thin 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.
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Melt 3 tablespoons butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add leek, onion, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Cook, stirring often, until leek and onion are softened but not browned, about 7 minutes.
Add 4 1/2 cups water, sliced core, and half of sliced cauliflower. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Add remaining sliced cauliflower and simmer until cauliflower is tender and crumbles easily, 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt remaining 5 tablespoons butter in 8-inch skillet over medium heat. Add reserved florets and cook, stirring often, until florets are golden brown and butter is browned and has 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 separate bowl and reserve for garnishing.
Process soup in blender until smooth, about 45 seconds. Return pureed soup to clean pot, bring to brief simmer over medium heat, and adjust 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). Season with salt to taste. Serve, garnishing individual bowls with browned florets, drizzle of browned butter, chives, and pepper.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.