From L., 3 March 2010, Another specific recipe request.
Q: Any chance I could get the cauliflower soup recipe from your Dinner Party post? I don’t eat meat, and that looks great.
A: Thanks for asking! The soup makes a perfect vegetarian first course. The garnishes make this soup decadent, and the roast cauliflower and croutons add a textural contrast as well as pops of flavor. That said, if you don’t want to deal with the garniture, just make the soup. Without the croutons or crème fraîche, it’s vegan, in case that matters to you.
I’m also supplying the recipe for the celery, Pink Lady apple, and mushroom salad I served. That’s another excellent first course – again, vegan – and you can prepare it in about five minutes. Don’t let the longish recipe put you off – it’s only because I explain each step in detail.
Cauliflower soup with roasted cauliflower and croutons
large head cauliflower, cleaned and coarsely cut, three florets reserved
6 cloves garlic confit
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs thyme, tied together
4 c filtered water
salt and white pepper
1/4 c crème fraîche
1 tbsp butter
1 slice of white bread, crusts removed and diced 1/4″
Slice the reserved florets thinly (1/8″) and place on a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and place in oven. Roast 20 minutes or until golden. Remove and season with sea salt and espelette.
Meanwhile, prepare soup. Place a sauce pot over medium heat and, when hot, add about 1 tbsp olive oil. Add the onions and sweat until tender; add the garlic confit, bay leaf and thyme, and cook 2-3 minutes more. Add the remaining cauliflower and 4 c filtered water. Bring to a simmer and cook until cauliflower is tender. Remove bay and thyme. Purée in blender until smooth. Strain through a chinois if necessary. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Place a skillet over medium heat and, when hot, add the butter. When it begins to foam, add the diced bread and sauté until golden. Season with a pinch of salt.
Ladle the soup into bowls or cups. Garnish with the roast cauliflower, a quenelle of crème fraîche, chive, smoked salt, and the croutons.
Celery, apple, and mushroom salad
If you have leftover celery, this is a good way to use it. It’s very simple and adds texture and mild celery flavor. The pairing with apple is classic – think of the Waldorf salad, which combines apples and grapes with mayonnaise. Mushrooms add an undertone of earthiness and provide a savory quality to the salad.
Do not substitute other mushrooms unless you are sure they are safe to eat raw. Many specialty mushrooms are safe, but others must be cooked before eating. Know your mushrooms.
1 apple, washed
1 stalk celery, with leaves, washed
4 large white button mushrooms (or cremini), washed – do not use a different variety
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp white wine vinegar
about 4-6 tbsp olive oil, maybe more
salt and pepper
Cut the apple into four chunks (take out the core) and slice paper-thin using a mandoline or benriner. Toss with a small quantity of lemon juice to keep fresh.
Slice the mushrooms with the mandoline or benriner.
Remove the leaves from the celery stalks and place in a small bowl.
Using a vegetable peeler – a Y-peeler is best – peel the strings from the celery stalks and discard. (Peel as you would a carrot.) After discarding the strings, using the peeler, thinly shave the celery stalks as though you were continuing to peel them. You should have nice, thin slices. Add them to the leaves.
Place the lemon juice and vinegar in a bowl, add a big pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, and slowly whisk in the olive oil. Taste after whisking in about 4 tbsp; if it is too sour, add a little more oil. Add the chives. Season with more salt if necessary.
Arrange the mushrooms on the plate, and arrange the apple on top. Dress the celery shavings and leaves lightly in the vinaigrette and arrange on top of the apple. Spoon a small quantity of vinaigrette around the rest of the salad.