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For people in my age bracket, cauliflower spent some years in the penalty box. I remember it as part of a bland and boring “vegetable medley” in restaurants and in frozen foods and was sort of a crumbly, tasteless additive. Freshly cooked, it was only boiled or steamed and gave off a sort of unpleasant cabbage-y aroma as it cooked. Coming home to the smell of cooking cauliflower, never elicited a cheerful “mmm, what’s for dinner?” more of a suspicious “uh, what’s for dinner?” with a follow-up disappointed “oh.”
Then a few years ago, some genius cook came up with the idea of roasting it, and a yummy new vegetable was born. Roasted, it tastes buttery, nutty and creamy, all at the same time—and loves to be sauced with flavors like curry, capers, garlic and lemon. So when I saw a version of this soup in Food and Wine magazine, I was inspired to try it, and I am happy to report that the results are really good.
This made a very satisfying lunch for us—we just had this soup and kept two small bowls of croutons and snipped chives nearby to replenish our toppings every so often. It also reheats well, so we repeated this meal several times, with no change at all to the taste or texture.
Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Pumpernickel Croutons
For the Soup
1 large head of cauliflower, leaves removed, stem trimmed
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, divided
1 large onion, minced
¼ cup heavy cream
Fresh chives and olive oil for garnish
For the Croutons
8 slices pumpernickel bread, torn into ½ inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 sprigs rosemary
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
To make the soup:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the whole cauliflower in a pie pan (or other baking dish). With clean hands, take four tablespoons of the softened butter and rub it all over the cauliflower. Sprinkle all over with kosher salt. Pour ½ cup of water into the dish. Roast for an hour and a half until the cauliflower is very tender. Remove it from the oven and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, make the croutons:
Melt the butter and the olive oil over low heat in a medium skillet. Add the rosemary sprigs and the garlic and gently cook for a couple of minutes. Remove the rosemary and the garlic from the pan and add the croutons. Stir the croutons to coat with the flavored oil and butter and sauté over low heat until crisp. Set aside to cool.
To finish the soup:
In a large saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter on low heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft but not browned, for about 10 to 15 minutes. Chop the cauliflower and add it to the mixture, along with 4 cups of water. Simmer the soup for about 10 minutes. If you have one, use an immersion blender to puree the soup until it is smooth or work in batches and puree the soup in a blender or processor. Add the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter, the cream and kosher salt and pepper to taste.
Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with a drizzle of oil, a small handful of croutons and chopped chives.