recipe: surprisingly vegan cauliflower soup

Among the many health-based food experiments I've embarked on, going vegan never really appealed to me. Quite simply, I've teetered on the edge of anemia my whole life, no matter how much meat I eat, so a strictly vegan diet always seemed like a recipe for disaster. That said, I have a great respect for vegetable-focused, clean eating, so I enjoy experimenting with vegan recipes from time to time.

In any case, this recipe didn't begin with any dietary ambitions. As with most things in my kitchen, it came from a desire to use the ingredients in my pantry in the most intelligent, no-waste way possible. So when I realized I had both a fresh head of cauliflower and 2 cups of frozen leeks (whenever I find leeks that are particularly long, white and lean I buy, chop and freeze them for future use), I suspected I might find a recipe to use both.

Cue Love & Lemons, whose roasted cauliflower and leek soup was already happily hanging out on my "soups + stews" Pinterest board. Chop, season, roast and blend—it was clearly my kind of no-fuss, one-pan/one-pot cooking. Based on the ingredients in my own pantry, I swapped in walnuts for the cashews and homemade preserved lemon for the fresh lemon. And, of course, I did my own thing as far as measurements because that's the joy of savory cooking. 

And when it was all over...I was less than impressed. The robust flavor I had been expecting just didn't seem to have shown up at the party. But, of course, I was going to eat the soup for lunch all week, because that's what responsible cooks do. Then...the next day when I heated the soup up for lunch, something magical happened. There was bold cheesy flavor in my soup. Overnight, in the fridge, the complexity of this concoction had mysteriously turned up the funk about ten notches. At that moment, I finally understood how some people could get addicted to nut-based, vegan cheese—though I suspect the paprika is also a key player in the funkification of the recipe below. (Please note: This changes nothing in my dairy life. I am a loyal, near-daily consumer of yogurt and unpasteurized cheeses.)

Anyway, here's my take on the recipe:

surprisingly Vegan Cauliflower Soup

Ingredients

  • 1.5-2 cups leeks, chopped
  • one head cauliflower, broken into florets (I also included the stalk + leaves)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 tbsp grapedseed (or other high heat) oil
  • pinch aleppo pepper
  • 2 pinches dried thyme
  • pinch salt
  • roughly 4 cups water
  • 1-1.5 cups walnuts, pre-soaked (I soaked them for about 1.5 hours)
  • 1 quarter of a preserved lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika

Instructions

  1. Toss chopped leeks, garlic and cauliflower in a small amount of grape seed or other high-heat appropriate oil. Sprinkle with thyme, aleppo pepper and a generous pinch of salt. Roast at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes (until golden). **If you haven't soaked your walnuts yet, do it now in hot water.
  2. Remove roasted vegetables from oven and add to a large pot with about 3 cups of water, soaked walnuts, preserved lemon, smoked paprika and olive oil. Use an immersion blender to break down until creamy. Add more water, as necessary, to achieve a thinner, soup-like consistency. 
  3. Once soup is pureed, gently heat through and puree again to achieve an even smoother consistency. 
  4. Refrigerate overnight and reheat when ready to serve.

Note: You will need either a very powerful immersion blender or a Vitamix for this soup to be successful

Up Your Apple I.Q. with Northern Spy

When it comes to locavore restaurants in New York City, there are few that make a better argument for sustainable, seasonal eating than Northern Spy Food Co. For those of us less knowledgeable about the bounty of our surroundings, apple season is just another few months of the year. But for Northern Spy—incidentally named for a local apple variety—fall is a time for celebrating the delicious biodiversity of our North Eastern apple harvest.

Photo Credit: Suzanne Long

Photo Credit: Suzanne Long

 

How did you come up with the name Northern Spy?

As is often the case with names, we were (legally) denied our first choice, and while scrambling to find a name just a month before opening, we were scouring the Oxford Companion to Food and came upon a list of apple varieties; when the name "Northern Spy" was read aloud we knew. The name naturally connects to regional agriculture. For those who know what it is, its a great recognition and for those who don't know right away what it means, we think it has a good ring to it. — Chris Ronis, Owner

 

Northern Spy apples with sunchokes, kohlrabi, fennel, brussel sprouts, mâche and brown butter vinaigrette

Northern Spy apples with sunchokes, kohlrabi, fennel, brussel sprouts, mâche and brown butter vinaigrette

The flavor of apples, at least in the Northeast, tends to be linked to childhood nostalgia. Do you have any specific memories that influence how you cook with apples?

I grew up in Western New York, so my memories are of apple picking and warm cider in the fall. My mother always baked pies and crisps from September through Thanksgiving, and my family is of German decent so caraway was always a prominent flavor. She would top apple pies with caraway seed or include apples and caraway in the crockpot when making pork shoulder and sauerkraut. — Amy Hess, Pastry Chef

Cider poached apples with spice cake and caraway

Cider poached apples with spice cake and caraway

 

To what extent does your sustainable mission influence the farmers you work with and how do you usually discover new varieties?

Since apple trees take time to cultivate, we haven't really asked about growing extra Northern Spy appless or anything like that. Our new variety research really comes from  having our market forager grab a bunch of different varieties each year from  all different stands; we eat them and see which ones fit best with what new dishes we're working on. — Hadley Schmitt, Chef

Are there any new techniques or flavor pairings in your apple cookery that you are particularly excited about?

An old school technique of my aunt's that I'd love to fool around with is coring the apple, slicing into thick, half-inch rings and hanging them from a string for a few days until they shrivel a bit and turn into a chewy snack. But a flavor I've liked and used the past few years are malted grains, or simply 'malt', and apples.  — Hadley Schmitt, Chef

Union Square Greenmarket. Photo Credit: P Romaine

Union Square Greenmarket. Photo Credit: P Romaine

 

Northern Spy's Favorite Local Varieties

Granny Smith, Rhode Island Greenies

Use: ideal for baking
Why: low sugar content, don't break down as easily as other varieties
Recipe idea: apple fennel sorbet

Gala, Pink Lady
Use: compotes and sauces
Why: perfectly sweet, easy to puree

Northern Spy
Use: nearly everything
Why: good texture, perfect balance of sweet and tart

Winesap
Use: snacking
Why: they're on the sweet side

Crab apples
Use: apple sauce
Why: always nice and tart
Pairs well with: pork dishes

Mutsu/Crispin
Use: cooking
Why: they hold up very well
Recipe idea: braise in cider and pair with buckwheat waffles or pancakes

Golden Russet
Use: baking
Why: old fashioned apple flavor, almost maple undertones
Pairs well with: bacon

supper club: september

After a summer hiatus, I'm thrilled to be bringing back the supper club. To make the most of the city's gorgeous nearly-fall weather, I asked my dear friends Moritz & Alexis to loan me their grill and adorable backyard in Fort Greene. 

My amazing, if ridiculous friend Moritz—donning astro turf from his backyard as a scarf.

The BBQ menu was largely inspired by classes I've taken at the Institute of Culinary Education with alum and current Executive Chef at Spice Market, Anthony Ricco. In particular, I have to thank him for teaching me to break down a whole chicken, as well as his recipes for Indonesian spice rub and Southeast Asian slaw.

 

Many thanks to my dear friend—and test kitchen chef—Melissa Knific for manning the grill.

To start, I grilled skewered shisito peppers, which, as an eating experience, are a game of "Russian roulette."  Most are very mild, but every once in a while...you really hit a hot one. I also steamed edamame and tossed it with Maldon salt and curry powder for a pre-meal snack. 

Thanks to the many hands of my hungry guests, we picked about 5 bunches of herbs for both the slaw and a big pot of nasi ulam, a rice dish I first discovered on the menu of Fatty Cue in Williamsburg. The combination of cilantro, mint, lemongrass, and ground shrimp powder create an herbaceous umami that brings an addictive amount of flavor to sticky jasmine rice.

Speaking of funky flavors, the slaw consisted of red and green cabbage, asian pear, julienned carrot, bean sprouts, mint, cilantro  and a dressing of sweetened condensed milk, fish sauce, lime juice, sriracha and rice vinegar.

The chicken was prepared two ways—on the bone, rubbed with Indonesian dry rub and skewered, with dry rub and a bit of chili marinade. A batch of grilled pineapple rounded out the meal.

But let's never forget dessert. The marvelous Molly Marzalek-Kelly, head pastry chef at BAKED in Red Hook joined us yet again, this time supplying home-made fortune cookies and whoopie pies with coconut or mango filling.  The fortune cookies contained hand-written notes—questions, in fact, that guests answered aloud. My favorite demanded, "Tell us your favorite summer moment." One friend generously responded, "This."