Cauliflower soup with crème fraîche.

After all that Stockton Soup Lady business last post, I think it’s high time for me to show off a few more of my soups.  This one, a cauliflower soup with leeks, crème fraîche, toasted pine nuts, and meyer lemon-infused olive oil, is a favorite.

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Cauliflower was one of the first soups, after roasted tomato, that I started making on a regular basis.  It’s the perfect soup base because it yields a very creamy soup and it can temper bold additions, like Stilton cheese, without the soup tasting too strong. I used lemon-infused olive oil as my intense flavor addition, and while that might not seem too bold, I hadn’t been able to figure out what to do with this seriously lemony olive oil (it’s too much for a tomato salad, and I don’t care for it in vinaigrette) until I dripped it over the cauliflower soup, already slightly tart from crème fraîche, and it found its home.

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This soup, with the lemon oil or whatever garnish is on hand, is a must this fall, especially if you’re like me and you need some extra comforting lately. Last Sunday night, my uncle lost his battle with lung cancer.  I had been able to spend some time with him on Friday afternoon, and by the time I left I knew that would be the last time we saw each other.  He didn’t go without a fight, though; he’d been fighting strong since his diagnosis months back

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He loved life, and couldn’t stand the thought of leaving it so early, at 52; he didn’t want to let go of the dreams for his future, or his new home country, Kenya, where he had lived the past five years before coming back to the States for treatment.  He didn’t want to let go of his wife and daughter in Kenya, both of whom he had far too little time with. He didn’t want to let go of his family and friends here in New Jersey, and New York City, and San Francisco, or his memories, or his jokes, or his snarky attitude.  He wanted all of it–all of life. Even when it hurt too much for him to stand anymore, he wanted life. I think that’s the most difficult part of this; it’s so hard to accept that he died, even when he wanted so badly not to.

Cauliflower soup

I would have loved to share this soup with my uncle; sadly he wasn’t up for much eating towards the end, which is sadder still knowing how much he enjoyed food.  Uncle John was the reason I loved to eat as a kid; his appetite was impossibly large and varied, and very, very cool.  He ate grasshoppers, and onion and peanut-butter sandwiches, but he also appreciated well-made classics.  He would have loved this soup.

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Cauliflower Soup with Crème fraîche

4-6 servings

4 small leeks, top dark green part removed
1 small onion
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tsp salt
1 medium head cauliflower
2 cups homemade chicken stock
2 cups water

3 or more tablespoons crème fraîche to taste

handful of pine nuts, toasted (optional)

meyer lemon olive oil, such as o Meyer Lemon Oil (optional)

Cut leeks lengthwise in half. Split halves open and wash thoroughly under running water, discarding any outer leaves that are egregiously dirty, then slice. Chop onion. In a medium soup pot, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add in leeks and onion and cook until softened, about 5-8 minutes. Add in salt.

Remove leaves from the cauliflower head and cut in half then, using a sharp knife, cut out the stalk. With your hands, break up the cauliflower into florets. Add florets to soup pot with stock and water. If you don’t have homemade chicken stock, you can use all water. Bring to a boil and then lower heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until florets are tender and easily broken up.

Using caution, blend the soup in three or four batches.  Add back to pot and stir in creme crème fraîche.  Serve in bowl with toasted pine nuts and olive oil.

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25 thoughts on “Cauliflower soup with crème fraîche.

  1. I am very sorry for your loss. I appreciate you take the time to post despite your pain, this recipe looks amazing. When I was in high school, cauliflower was my go-to winter lunch. Looking at this recipe and the pictures brought me back to those wonderful times, thank you for that.

  2. ugh, robin, i am so sorry for your loss. what a difficult year – and i hope you are hanging in there.. the soup looks lovely, comforting and perfect for the onset of a cooler season.

  3. This certainly sounds and looks like a great comforting bowl of soup from your delicious pictures, very sorry to read of the loss of your Uncle, take care.

  4. I’m so sorry for the loss of your uncle. He sounds like an incredible person that will be missed greatly. My father passed away a few years ago at the age of 47 from a sudden heart attack. His birthday was a few days ago and it reminded me of all the things I wish I could still share with him, including good food. Thank you for still sharing your amazing recipes during this time.

  5. Marie says:

    I also lost my uncle to lung cancer. My deepest condolences! You may find this becomes “his” soup and remember him each time you make it. Your love will come to outweigh your pain, I promise.

  6. Catanea says:

    Our condolences on the loss of your uncle. He sounds like an amazing man. Peanutbutter and onions. Wow.
    Maybe someone’s asked you before, but could you explain why you use unsalted butter but then add salt to the recipe? Often one or the other type of butter isn’t easy to find wherever I happen to be. As nearly all sweet recipes have a pinch of salt; why does it matter? Could you clarify? (haha, that’s almost a pun).

    • Thank you for the condolences, Catanea.

      I use unsalted butter in most of my cooking and baking because it gives me greater control over the amount of salt that I put into the recipe; I don’t have to factor in the salt in the butter when I am seasoning the dish. There’s about 3/4 of a teaspoon of salt in a stick of butter, which is enough that you’ll need to think about it when deciding how much salt to season your food with.

      However, in most cooking, it’s not going to be a problem. This soup, for example, can take a lot of salt, so if you have only salted butter (or if unsalted is more expensive), by all means use it. Just taste the soup before you add more salt towards the end.

      I’m a believer that you can use salted butter in practically any cooking, too, just taste your food before seasoning with extra salt. And for baking, I think it would depend on the recipe. I’ve used salted butter in my chocolate cakes and liked the result. And I usually add a good amount of salt to yellow and pound cakes, so I imagine you could sub in salted butter.

      I guess what I’m trying to say is, it really doesn’t matter. Give recipes a try using whatever butter you have, and in the event it tastes too salty, you’ll know that next time you should use unsalted butter.

      • Catanea says:

        Thank-you, Robin. I have tended to ignore specifications for salted or unsalted butter (unless I really know the local butter…in Brittany, say). And there you are saying 3/4 tsp per “stick” – really I forget how much an American “stick” of butter is…is it (I know – I should go to Wikipedia or my cookbooks’ back pages every time…1/4 lb? and is that….125 grams-ish? I really cook with visualized measurements (or maybe medieval ones: a “nut” of butter, a “raig” = ray/sunbeam of oil…) but when somebody I respect specifies, I want to know why. Thank-you.

  7. That lemon oil is really good on freshly cooked green beans, with some coarse salt and perhaps a bit of fresh marjoram. I was stymied by that oil too and it sat around on my counter looking pretty until I discovered that use . . . now it’s all gone!

  8. I’m terribly behind in my reading — even my favorite blogs (yours included) are getting the short end of the stick. So I’m doubly sad to hear about your uncle’s passing, and that I didn’t have a chance to say so when you first posted. It sounds like he savored every minute, and I am sure he would have loved your remembrance of him being accompanied by a recipe.

    The soup looks delicious — I can’t wait until we have cauliflower here again. And congratulations on your new soup venture. 🙂

  9. Beth says:

    This looks fantastic and I can’t wait to try it. But I’m not sure about leeks? I’ve never worked with them before. So…do you cut off all the green part? and do you leave them in just halves? Or chop them like onions? Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Beth,

      I should’ve mentioned it in the recipe, but yes, cut off most of the green part then slice the halves. Make sure to wash them REALLY well.

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