Tuesday, March 06, 2012

A Pair of Winter Soups

Roasted Cauliflower Soup
You know what I say about soups like this: I am crying joyfully into my hankie, adjusting my veil at the altar, while the children are pecking the soup on the cheek, thanking it politely for a lovely evening. No matter. It is winter (finally) and so soup must be made. Also it is winter (still) and so assorted root vegetables must be used up. The first soup is a favorite of mine, and one I actually put up on family.com last year, but it was a little buried on the site, and you may not have seen it. (This may not seem very important, I know. But it is! So I’m bothering telling you so.) The second is one I just recently made out of utter Root Vegetable Desperation, in a frantic effort to forestall the pending Root Vegetable Apocalypse (which arrives in the rapturous form of a guilty April trip to the compost with moldy armfuls), and it was absolutely and utterly simple and delicious. The kids even had seconds, and Ben considered taking the leftovers for school lunch. Sure, he took cheese and crackers in the end, but he considered taking the soup.

The soup is named Hotlips not just after the M*A*S*H character, and not just because the harissa in it will make your mouth tingle, but also because I grated a beet into it, mostly for color, and it turned the exact shade of Ben’s bedroom. Which is actually the Benjamin Moore color “Hot Spice.”


Benjamin Moore, Hot Spice
But I thought if I called the soup “Hot Spice,” you’d think it was really spicy, which it isn’t. Use an assortment of root vegetables, or all one kind, as you have need and inclination. But do try to use the carrots and beet because the resulting color is so lovely. As you know, I serve soup with bread, biscuits, popovers, or, er, waffles.

Roasted Cauliflower Soup
serves 4-6
Active time: 15 minutes; total time: 1 hour

As you know, roasting brings out the nutty sweetness of cauliflower in a kind of insane way. Call this "Caramelized Cauliflower Bisque" and see if the kids like the sound of it.

2 medium-sized heads of cauliflower
3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt
1 quart chicken broth
1 cup water
1 cup half and half (or whole milk)
Freshly ground black pepper
Snipped chives (optional)

Heat the oven to 450. Cut the cauliflower into small florets and, on a large foil-lined rimmed baking sheet, toss them with the garlic, onion, oil, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Roast 25-30 minutes, flipping the florets halfway through, until they are golden and starting to brown.

Reserve a few small florets for garnish, if you like, then add the rest of the cauliflower along with the onions and garlic to a large pot with the broth and water and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat, then simmer the soup, partially covered, for 30 minutes, or until the cauliflower is very tender. In a blender in batches, or with a hand blender, puree the soup until smooth. Stir in the half and half, add black pepper and more salt to taste, and serve, garnished with the reserved florets and snipped chives.

Hotlips Soup
(aka the soup of many roots and some harissa)
Serves 4-6
Active time: 30 minutes; total time: 11/2 hours

“Where do you get harissa?” someone asked me the other day, and I pointed to our friend Khalid who was standing right there. “Him.” He brings it back for us from Morocco and it is wildly beautiful and fragrant, smelling puckeringly of preserved lemons and tinglingly of chiles. A little stirred into a bowl of lentil soup is the difference between {yawn} and “YOWZA!” That said, if you don’t have a Morocco-going friend, you can buy some harissa at a market or make it yourself, or you can make the soup with Thai red chili paste, and it will be fantastic. If you do, though, swap in coconut milk for the cream and lime for the lemon, and garnish with cilantro if you have it.

1 tablespoon each butter and olive oil
1 large onion, any color, sliced (mine was red)
1 stalk celery, sliced
Kosher salt
6 or so cups of diced root vegetables (I used 1 small celery root, 1 turnip, 2 large carrots, 2 parsnips, and 1 potato)
1 small beet, peeled and grated
½-1 teaspoon harissa (or else use thai red chili paste and coconut milk)
1 quart chicken broth
Lemon or lime juice to taste (I used the juice from ¼ lemon)
½ cup heavy cream (or coconut milk)

Heat the butter and olive oil in a soup pot over medium-low heat, then sauté the onion and celery with around ½ teaspoon of kosher salt (or etc.) until softened and fragrant, around 5 to 10 minutes.

Add the root vegetables. In truth, I do this as they’re prepped, in stages. Just keep sautéing and stirring every now and then until everybody’s in the pot. Then stir in the harissa or red chile paste. Add the broth, turn the heat to high, and bring the pot to a boil. Now cover it, turn the heat to low, and simmer gently until all the veggies are falling apart, 45 minutes to an hour.

Puree the soup with a stick blender or, in batches, in a blender. Add the cream and lemon juice and salt to taste. Salt is your friend, now and always. For ultimate smoothness, put the soup through a food mill (I didn’t bother, and there was the odd stringy something as a result). Garnish with harissa and attractive blobs of cream.


  1. I did! I did dig around and find the cauliflower soup recipe! And the kids liked it! We topped it with toasted bread crumbs (a trick we learned from you) which added a great texture.

    1. I know you are "No whey mama" but I read "Now hey mama" every time, and every time it makes me smile!

    2. I figure that gives me flexibility for possible future blogging efforts. :)

  2. The top link in this post is not working. I am dying to know what item may not seem important but actually is.

    In preparation for a CSA pick-up next week I think I saw a batch of harissa and soup in my future.

  3. I am so excited to try the cauliflower soup! Thanks for the recipes!

    May I share a wonderful soup recipe with you too?? We discovered this one in the fall, and we make it every two weeks or so. We can't get enough:


    Happy March!

  4. Anonymous5:39 PM

    Hey Catherine, I love your recipes. You have a cup of water in your cauliflower soup recipe that you don't include in the cooking instructions. Does it go in with the chicken broth? Thanks!

    1. Drink it! Wait, no. You've already had 2 glasses of beer. Add it with the broth!


  5. Oh, hallelujah. Because each week our winter share of our veggie box has cauliflower in it. Currently I boil it, then roast it under the broiler with alfredo sauce and bread crumbs, and the kids first cheered, but now I can't get them to eat the leftovers. We SO NEED a new recipe. They are also no longer fooled by my vegetable soup, even when I toss in meatballs or cheese raviolis from Trader Joes. They are DONE with winter food. Maybe a new recipe will get us through to those early tomatoes. Ooh, sungolds, I cannot wait to eat you this year!

    1. Oh! And parmesan on the roasted broccoli too. Or sometimes just a bit of red pepper flakes. I mix it up, but it's still basically the same stuff.

      Also, the Beautiful Soup poem by Louis Carroll is big around my house. It usually gets me an extra month of feeding them root veggies just to sing it while I cook.

      and now I'm really done. Because I just spent five minutes talking about cauliflower...

  6. maxanyamom10:10 PM

    Harissa! How serendipitous. I've never had it, but I recently decided to make some. I ran across a recipe for a soup called Lablabi which grabbed my attention and requires harissa. The ingredients for the harissa are on my grocery list for this week. I think I'll try your soup first though...your recipes always shine!

  7. The cauliflower soup sounds delicious -- I think I'll make it for our neighborhood soup night. But I really came by to say that I was in Amherst yesterday for work stuff and kept thinking "Catherine Newman lives around here!" Your existence makes me happy.

  8. Anonymous9:50 PM

    Roasted cauliflower soup sounds really good. I might have to make this recipe :)