October 23, 2019

Dear friends,
My new favorite soup isn’t the prettiest on the block. It looks kind of like the gray skies of an Ohio winter. But wait until you taste it. The flavor is technicolor and the calories are low. This week, dip into a bowlful of roasted cauliflower-coconut soup with a chile-peanut crumble.

I don’t know exactly how I dreamed this one up. I was looking for a new way to use cauliflower, that protean vegetable that subs for everything from rice to pizza crust these days. With the nippy weather I was in the mood for a soup, but not just plain cauliflower soup. Since I could imprint any flavor on the bland vegetable, I mused, why not go big?

The cauliflower itself provides the creaminess. It is simmered in chicken broth and coconut milk and then pureed until smooth and thick. Roasting the cauliflower first gives it a slightly smoky flavor.

To add depth to the soup, I sautéed some onions and garlic before stirring in the liquid. I also added a spoonful of Thai green curry paste, although you can leave it out if you don’t have any in the fridge. I like the faintly exotic flavor and burst of heat it provides.

The soup is low in calories at about 95 per cup, but tastes rich because of the coconut milk and pureed cauliflower. A squirt or two of lime juice added before serving balances the richness.

I like the contrast between the smooth soup and the crunch of peanuts in my peanut crumble topping. The topping is essentially a spicy peanut brittle, made in minutes in a small saucepan by melting a bit of sugar and stirring in coarse-chopped peanuts and a smidgeon of chile pepper flakes. You can omit it if it seems like too much work.

Tony and I had the soup with pan-seared shrimp seasoned with a sploosh Criollo mojo marinade. I add the bottled marinade to the hot skillet just before the shrimp are done. It boils away, leaving the shrimp coated with flavor.

I know: Thai-flavored soup and Cuban-flavored shrimp. The combo sounds strange but they went well together. If I’m being honest here, Tony decided they went so well together they should be wedded in a single dish. He mounded rice in a bowl, piled the shrimp on top and ladled on the cauliflower soup as a kind of sauce.

You could try that if you want a more substantial meal. I preferred my lean dinner of pan-grilled shrimp and a cup of soup that tastes absolutely decadent yet, with light coconut milk, has just 95 calories per cup.

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER-COCONUT SOUP WITH PEANUT-CHILE CRUMBLE

For the crumble:
2 tbsp. sugar
1/3 cup rough-chopped salted peanuts
1 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

For the soup:
1 large head cauliflower
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup diced onion
2 fat cloves garlic
1 tbsp. chopped ginger
1 tsp. Thai green chile paste
1 tsp. salt
1 can (15 oz.) light or regular coconut milk
1 box (32 oz.) chicken broth
Juice of 1/2 lime

For the crumble:
Melt sugar in a very small saucepan over medium-low heat. Before the melted sugar browns, rapidly stir in the peanuts and pepper flakes. Immediately pat onto a buttered plate. When cool, chop with a sharp knife. Makes about 1/3 cup.

For the soup:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Separate cauliflower into florets, wash and pat dry. Spread on a lightly oiled, foil-lined baking sheet. Spray florets with olive oil spray. Roast at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, until tender and the edges begin to brown.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a soup pot. Sauté onion, garlic and ginger over medium-low heat until softened but not browned. Stir in chile paste and salt. Add coconut milk and stir until chile paste has dissolved. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes to infuse the coconut milk with flavor. Stir in 2 cups of the chicken broth and the cauliflower, broken into small pieces. Cover and simmer over low heat until the cauliflower is very soft, about 30 minutes.

Puree soup in a food processor or powerful blender (in batches if necessary) until very smooth. Return to pan. Stir in the remaining 2 cups of broth. Cover and simmer 15 minutes longer. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice.

Ladle soup into bowls and top each portion with some of the peanut crumble. Makes 7 to 8 one-cup servings, depending on the size of the head of cauliflower.

GUT CHECK
What I cooked last week:
Goulaschsuppe (Austrian vegetable-beef soup); chicken salad; chocolate pudding; ginger-glazed roast salmon, roast vegetables; roasted cauliflower-coconut soup; tomato and egg on whole-wheat toast.

What I ate in/from restaurants:
T-bone steak, tossed salad and steamed vegetables at the Brown Derby in Medina Township; keto steak bowl from Chipotle; grilled chicken sandwich and coleslaw at Ohio Brewing Co. in Cuyahoga Falls; marinated, grilled kefteh, beef and chicken, basmati rice, kibbee, tabbouli, baba ganoush, hummus and pita bread from Mediterranean Market & Grill in Cuyahoga Falls; a smoked brisket sandwich and Diet Pepsi at Christmas in the Woods Festival at Shaker Woods in Columbiana; half of a ham and cheese sub from Subway.

THE MAILBAG
From Sue D.:
I ordered goetta several times on my business trips to Cincinnati. Although there was oatmeal in it, it tasted mostly like fried sausage. Perhaps it’s an acquired taste, but I don’t think I’d go out of my way for it again. I’d just order oatmeal, which I love!

Dear Sue:
Hmmm. I was hoping for something more distinctive. I’m guessing the early German settlers used the oatmeal to extend the more expensive meat.

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