SOMEHOW unassuming cauliflower has become a celebrity vegetable. Darling of the ketogenic diet, applauded for its versatility, it’s called on as a substitute for everything from rice to chicken wings. I’m not here to push cauliflower pizza crust as a replacement for the real thing, but I’m as susceptible as anyone to the charms of the ubiquitous brassica.
Cauliflower is a chameleon ingredient, readily absorbing other flavors. And because of its high water content (around 90%), it lends itself especially well to blending in a soup. In the recipe at right, kombu adds salinity and depth, providing the backbone for a vegan stock. Bolstered by crunchy, savory croutons, showered in Vitamin B-rich nutritional yeast and fresh herbs, it’s nourishing yet light. For added heat, I love drizzling on some Chinese chile crisp. A dollop of crème fraîche or a non-dairy substitute also plays nicely here.
This soup is a staple in my home, subject to endless riffing. I’ve swapped in steamed clams for the croutons, which makes sense since the blended cauliflower has a chowderlike texture. In the winter, I’ve added sauerkraut to the soup ahead of blending for a hint of tang. But I never leave out the turmeric, which imparts a comforting, earthy note as well as a vivid golden hue. Like cauliflower itself, that color seems to go with just about everything.
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