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

recipe: kimchi soup

Having successfully made it through winter without a flu shot or the flu, I was taken aback by a head cold at the beginning of March. Sluggish and phlegmy, but not sick enough to stay home from work, I needed a cure - and fast. Immediately, I thought of a spicy kimchi soup I once tried at Seoul Garden in Korea town. Since I was sick, I didn't take the time to research traditional kimchi soups; rather, I based this version off ingredients already in my pantry/refrigerator. I was stunned with how well it turned out, and it certainly sped up my healing process. To boot, I liked it so much that I made a second batch, adding in some leftover pulled pork that I had frozen from my last supper club. What I've posted is the basic recipe, but feel free to add extra heat, protein or whatever else strikes your fancy.

IMG_0636

Kimchi Soup

Prep: 5 minutes; Cook time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 8 cups broth (of choice - I used a combo of chicken and vegetable)
  • 1 head *napa cabbage, roughly chopped (bite size)
  • 1/2 jar kimchi
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 jalapeno, small dice
  • 3 oz tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp ginger powder
  • 1/2 tbsp tumeric
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • salt (to taste)

Instructions

  1. Quickly heat tomato paste in the bottom of your soup pot, over medium heat. Add broth and turn to high heat.
  2. Add kimchi, lemon juice, napa cabbage and jalapeno.
  3. Once mixture is fully heated, add ginger powder, tumeric, paprika, salt and stir. (Adjust spices/salt to your personal taste, as needed.)
  4. Heat until stalks of napa cabbage are tender. Serve piping hot.

*Savoy or green cabbage will also work, if napa is not available at your grocery store. (You may notice, in my picture, that I used savoy cabbage, since I couldn't find napa for my second batch.)

recipes: cooking with tea

The food-pairing trend may have started with wine and cheese, but in recent years has burgeoned into a full-blown industry, with events featuring products from whisky to kimchi. Tea pairing has become an increasingly popular alternative to alcoholic pairings, inspiring a tangential interest in culinary uses for tea.  At the forefront of this movement is French tea brand, Le Palais des Thés, which recently launched an online US store and has plans for a New York storefront in the coming years.  I sat down with Aurélie Bessière, president of the company’s American branch, to learn more.

I recently learned that tea was actually introduced into France more than thirty years before coffee and made popular by Cardinal Mazarin and Louis XIV.  Can you speak a bit about the French tea tradition?

The French tea tradition, introduced in the 17th century, was always less popular than coffee, but has grown. In France, we always look for the best quality and taste [in food], and it is the same with tea. We want to find the freshest and most interesting product available.

What distinguishes Le Palais des Thés from other French tea brands?

Le Palais des Thés was founded when my uncle, François-Xavier Delmas, first discovered a passion for tea. He opened the first store in Paris and quickly decided to go to the plantations in Asia to select the leaves himself, to pursue the best quality. This was and still is unusual, as tea companies tend to go through intermediaries. He then opened a tea school in Paris, the only institution of its kind in Europe. Students learn about blends, regions and crus, as well as tea ceremonies and food pairing. The most popular class is tea and cheese pairing – very French!

Have you noticed any difference in American tea culture vs. French tea culture?

We didn’t expect this, but in the US there are more male customers (30%) than in France (25%). What remains consistent is that our customers tend to be loyal tea drinkers and that the most popular teas are our signature creations (such as Thé du Hammam, Thé des Moines, and Thé des Lords) and grands crus (such as our Darjeeling first flushes and Korean Jukro.).

Has the growing interest in tea pairing affected your production style?

The growing interest in tea pairings has not changed our philosophy. Our focus is on quality and rarity first. Then, of course, we take an interest in how we can use the teas in cooking and pairings – we’re French after all! What is different is that we have begun to use the teas in more interesting ways, and we now provide suggestions for pairings.

In what ways have you collaborated with other culinary professionals to explore the tea pairing trend?

We have a history of collaborating with chefs in France, most notably on a tea-based cookbook, which is currently only available in French, but will be available in English in the future. We have also partnered with chefs for events. For example, in New York City, we organized a class with the French Culinary Institute and chef Melanie Franks about tea pairings and tea-based cooking. We are also the proud House Purveyor of tea for the James Beard Foundation for all events at their House in New York.

Aurélie also provided a recipe from La cuisine au thé (Cooking with Tea), the aforementioned French cookbook featuring products from Le Palais des Thés, so I could experience tea-based cooking first-hand.

The recipe I tested was for potato soup, featuring Thé du Tigre - an unusually fragrant, smoked tea from Taiwan that one friend remarked, “smells like bacon!” The soup itself was lighter and more elegant than I expected, with the tea imparting a pleasant, subtle layer of added flavor. I served it, as suggested, with Le Palais des Thés’ Grand Yunnan Imperial – a dark amber, smooth and lightly sweet black tea.

Potato Soup (translated from La cuisine au thé)

Serves 4.  20-40 mins of prep and cooking. Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 4 potatoes
  • 4 slices of uncured bacon
  • ½ cup of cream
  • 3 tsp of Thé du Tigre

Instructions:

  1. Cut the onion in large pieces.  Brown it in olive oil in a medium-sized pot.
  2. Chop the potatoes and add to the pot. Sprinkle tea into the pot as well.
  3. Add water to the pot, just above the level of the potatoes.
  4. While potatoes are cooking, prepare the bacon by frying it until crispy in a pan.  Once cooked, set the bacon aside on a plate lined with paper towel.
  5. Cook the potatoes until soft. Mash them, then pass the mixture through a fine mesh strainer or chinois.
  6. Return the strained soup to the pot.  Add cream, reserving a small about for decoration.
  7. Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Add a slice of bacon or crumbled bacon to the bottom of each soup bowl, then fill with soup.

To learn more about Le Palais des Thés, click here.