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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Cauliflower Soup with Crème fraîche
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.