Creamy Creamless Cauliflower Soup

April 8, 2013 | By | COMMENTS

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Sometimes it takes a person’s wild enthusiasm to get you to try a recipe that doesn’t immediately jump off the page. Take, for example, Paul Bertolli’s cauliflower soup. After I declared my love for cauliflower in this Cauliflower Casserole post, a commenter named Eliza said, “If you love cauliflower, you should try Paul Bertolli’s Cauliflower Soup, especially with the spring crop of cauliflower beginning to show up in the farmers markets. This soup is rich, creamy (without any cream) yet fresh tasting. Only 4 ingredients – olive oil, onion, cauliflower and water – make magic.” The recipe didn’t sell me, but Eliza did. So I tried it.

As Eliza says, there are only four ingredients. It starts simply enough by sweating onions in olive oil.

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The goal here is to go slow and not to brown the onions. While that’s happening, you can cut your cauliflower into florets.

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By the time you’ve done that, your onions will be translucent and you can add the cauliflower to the pot with a pinch of salt and a splash of water.

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You cover the pot for 15 minutes and cook until the cauliflower can be pierced with a knife. Then you add 4 1/2 cups water, a little more salt, and cook 20 more minutes uncovered. From there, it goes into the blender:

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You blend in batches until you have a clean white puree. And that’s pretty much it. I poured it back into the pot and tasted.

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I have to confess, I was skeptical at first. How good could onions, cauliflower and water taste? But just like Eliza, I was dazzled. The most surprising thing is the texture: it’s so creamy and velvety and smooth, you’d swear that at some point someone snuck into your kitchen, drugged you, poured a quart of cream into your blender, and woke you up just as it finished blending. But no, it’s just creamy because that’s what happens when you cook cauliflower in water and blend it.

As you’ll see in the next post, I served the soup cold so I could top it with flowers. But the soup is wonderful hot too. It’s an exercise in simplicity that’s surprisingly complex. Thanks, Eliza, for pointing me to a great recipe.

Recipe: Creamy Creamless Cauliflower Soup

Summary: From Paul Bertolli by way of Food52 and Eliza.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced thin
  • 1 head cauliflower (1 1/2 pounds) cut into florets (you don’t have to be fanatical about size since it all blends up later)
  • Salt, to taste
  • 5 1/2 cups water, divided
  • Finishing olive oil (if you have a nicer one to drizzle on top)
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a pot on medium heat. Add the onions, a pinch of salt, and lower the heat to the lowest setting you can. Cook slowly, stirring the onions every so often, making sure they don’t turn brown. If you’re worried about that, you could add a tiny splash of water. They should cook for 15 minutes (or until translucent).
  2. Add the cauliflower, salt again, and 1/2 cup water. Raise the heat slightly, cover the pot and stew the cauliflower for 15 to 18 minutes, stirring every so often. This step is done when you can pierce the cauliflower easily with a knife.
  3. At that point, add 4 1/2 cups hot water (make sure it’s hot so you don’t stop the cooking process; I warmed mine in a tea kettle), another pinch of salt, and bring to a low simmer, cooking for 20 more minutes.
  4. Pour the mixture in batches into a blender and blend. (Be careful to leave an opening at the top of the blender that you cover with a kitchen towel as it blends; if you cover it fully, the top might blow off as you’ve probably seen happen on TOP CHEF.) When the soup is fully blended, return it to the pot.
  5. Taste, adjust for salt, then let stand for 20 minutes. It will thicken. At that point, you can thin it out with 1/2 cup of hot water, but I didn’t do that. You can either serve it now, drizzled with good olive oil and sprinkled with black pepper, or chill it and serve it cold. It’s great either way.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 1 hour(s) 10 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 6

Tags: , , , , ,

Categories: Recipes, Soups

  • Sharon

    I make a similar soup, but use a qt of homemade chicken stock instead of the water. Sometimes I use leeks instead of onion. Purée with an immersion blender.

  • Wendy

    Try adding horseradish! Even more heavenly :-)

  • Sarah

    I made a cauliflower soup in my Vitamix the other day, raw cauliflower, water, onion, a touch of garlic, pepper and like you was wowwed. I cooked mine in the vitamix rather than on the stove and it was equally creamy. It’s weird what you can do with cauliflower.

    I also made an alfredo sauce the other night in much the same way but with a touch of milk, a tablespoon of butter and a piece of fresh parm, cauliflower and the vitamix. whizzed it for 8 minutes, hot and bubbly cream sauce for pasta. It was surprisingly tasty as well.

  • Eliza

    YAY!!! I’m so glad you tried it and liked it. I was worried – not because it isn’t a great soup but ’cause it was for a dinner party and those choices are always fraught with nerves.

    As great as it is by itself, it also lends itself to lots of variations as it makes a great base. Sometimes I add some greens to the bowl (e.g., arugula, spinach) and have the heat of the soup wilt the greens; or add some cut up potatoes during the last 20 minutes for a bit more substantial soup; sometimes adding roasted poblano chiles to the final blending of the cauliflower/potato soup.

  • http://twitter.com/alphaprep Samantha Tackeff

    Oo! I’d highly recommend picking up a copy of Bertolli’s ‘Cooking By Hand’. Wonderful cookbook – more of these blissfully minimal and brilliant recipes!

  • http://twitter.com/Chompchompcomau Chompchomp

    Any suggestions what to replace the onion with? I have fructose malabsorption so its a no go….

  • Sigrid

    I have to tell you, I tried this and loved it. I did modify it slightly, though. I cut down on the oil (I didn’t find that I needed all of it) and in step three, I added curry so I’d end up with a curried cauliflower soup. I’m dying to try it with the horseradish suggestion below, though. That sounds even more delicious!

  • Dorothee

    These are exactly the changes I planned to make. Does the stock make a better soup or should I save it for more worthy subjects, because the soup is super without it? Also – does the blender make a creamier soup or is the immersion blender “good enough”?

  • Eliza

    Dorothee – I don’t think you need to use chicken stock. I think it would overtake the flavor of the soup, which is delicate and what’s so lovely about it. The veggies (onion and cauliflower) in the soup make their own stock. Try it first with the water and see what you think. I found that a blender makes a creamier soup than an immersion blender so when I want a soup to be extra smooth and velvety I use a blender. Hope that helps.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=610412721 Betty Coppola

    toss a hand full of raw cashews and scoop of nutritional yeast in the vitamix

  • empress bee

    seriously delicious!

  • E

    Can you give me the recipe breakdown on the vitamix cauliflower soup- I want to cook it in mine, I have the new one with the soup setting and haven’t found a good recipe.

  • E

    Can you give me the recipe breakdown on the vitamix cauliflower soup- I want to cook it in mine, I have the new one with the soup setting and haven’t found a good recipe.

  • Red

    I would love to have this recipe as well and use in my new vitamixer

  • Deborah Lorraine

    We made this soup last month and loved it, but it got me to thinking how it could be the basis for other creamy creamless soups. Last night, I made a creamy creamless asparagus-mushroom soup. I followed the recipe as it is (except I accidentally let the onions brown, and I thought it turned out just fine), and at step 3, I added asparagus stems chopped into 1″ pieces. I set the tips aside. I used an immersion blender and was quite happy with the consistency. I let it stand for 20 minutes, while I sauteed the sliced baby bella mushrooms (wish I’d used two cartons instead of one) with paprika and red pepper flakes, and at the very end, added the asparagus tips and garlic. I added the mushroom and tips into the soup and heated them up. It was such a light dinner, I served with fresh baked Parker House rolls (from frozen). I was going to add bacon, but no one missed it.

  • Deborah Lorraine

    We made this soup last month and loved it, but it got me to thinking how it could be the basis for other creamy creamless soups. Last night, I made a creamy creamless asparagus-mushroom soup. I followed the recipe as it is (except I accidentally let the onions brown, and I thought it turned out just fine), and at step 3, I added asparagus stems chopped into 1″ pieces. I set the tips aside. I used an immersion blender and was quite happy with the consistency. I let it stand for 20 minutes, while I sauteed the sliced baby bella mushrooms (wish I’d used two cartons instead of one) with paprika and red pepper flakes, and at the very end, added the asparagus tips and garlic. I added the mushroom and tips into the soup and heated them up. It was such a light dinner, I served with fresh baked Parker House rolls (from frozen). I was going to add bacon, but no one missed it.

  • Deborah Lorraine

    I am also surprised about the creamy quality of cauliflower. I must try the alfredo sauce! Thanks!

  • Deborah Lorraine

    I am also surprised about the creamy quality of cauliflower. I must try the alfredo sauce! Thanks!

  • Jenn

    I found it really bland. I added 3 cups frozen organic corn to the soup in the Vitamixas well as added 1/2 cup nutritinal yeast. Blended till HO, added cubed cooked potatoes and 1/2 cup kernels of corn and salt to the finished soup. VERY creamy chowder! YUMM!

  • Jenn

    I found it really bland. I added 3 cups frozen organic corn to the soup in the Vitamixas well as added 1/2 cup nutritinal yeast. Blended till HO, added cubed cooked potatoes and 1/2 cup kernels of corn and salt to the finished soup. VERY creamy chowder! YUMM!