Yesterday was the first day of autumn and I celebrated by making soup. Now mind you it doesn’t really feel like autumn. It’s short sleeve weather, which is not uncommon in these here parts in late September. My town is know for Indian summers. We’ve had such uncommonly beautiful weather for months and months now that part of me doesn’t want to let go, wants to hang onto the last vestige of summer as it slowly slips away. The other part of me is ready to trumpet fall in with all the hoopla of a marching band because it’s actually my favorite season.
I love the crisp cool days of early autumn when the sun is still shining but you can feel that nip in the air telling you to put on a jacket. I love watching the leaves turn color, the buzz in the air as students head back to school. But most of all–and I’ll bet you guessed this one–I love making the food that I didn’t get to eat all summer long as I stuffed myself silly with salads and fruit and caramel ice cream. That’s all fine and well (especially the ice cream) but nothing beats a boeuf bourguignon simmered on the stove all day, a good pork roast served with new potatoes, or a pumpkin pie finished with a good dollop of fresh whipped cream in order to get a good start on Thanksgiving (in mid-October for us in Canada). And of course, we can’t forget the soup.
To me, soup is supposed to be comfort food, which is why I like it creamy, or at least hearty, like a chicken soup loaded with noodles and vegetables. While I was growing up, my mother made a lot of soup. In Eastern Europe, soup is always part of the main meal, a custom that I have always disliked. It seemed that once I finished the soup, I was almost too full for the good stuff–often the meat and potatoes–which I ultimately preferred and still do. So now I make soup a meal on its own, served with some homemade crackers or a slice of rustic country bread.
This recipe isn’t set in stone, rather a guideline. You can add your own choice of spices or other seasonings. I add a small tomato to give it a boost of flavor. It’s not enough to make the soup tomatoey in any way, but gives it an unmistakable tang that goes beautifully with the leek and cauliflower.
Cream of Roasted Cauliflower & Leek Soup
1 head cauliflower
1 large leek, white part only
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons water
1 carton vegetable or chicken broth (946 ml)
1 tomato, blanched in hot water and peeled
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 sachet bouquet garni *
1/4 cup creme fraiche
fresh ground pepper
1) Preheat oven to 400F. Wash the cauliflower and leek thoroughly. Cut the leek into chunks and cook slowly in butter and water until water evaporates and the leeks are tender, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the cauliflower into chunks and drizzle with olive oil. Roast in oven until golden and caramelized.
2) Bring the stock to a simmer. Add bouquet garni, garlic, salt and pepper. Add the cooked leeks and tomato. When the cauliflower is roasted, add to the broth and cover. Cook on medium low heat until the cauliflower is soft and tender and the flavors are incorporated.
3) Remove the bouquet garni. Puree the soup with an immersion blender. Season to taste with more salt and pepper. Thoroughly blend in creme fraiche.
* Bouquet garni is a mixture of dried celery, bay leaves, thyme and parsley. I buy Cote D’Azur brand, which is a local company. You can make your own bouquet by choosing a mixture of herbs and tying them into a small piece of cheesecloth. This will immerse the soup with the flavors of the herbs.