Late Autumn in the Salinas Valley
“Adam sat looking at the mountains to the east of Salinas, with the notable point of Fremont’s Peak dominating. The air was crystalline as it sometimes is when rain is coming. And then the light rain began to blow on the wind although the sky was not properly covered with cloud.”
East of Eden, John Steinbeck
Lettuces, sweet broccoli, kale and a huge head of cauliflower filled my refrigerator. A gift from
Tanamura and Antle, it was the last of the locally grown Salinas Valley produce until spring. Production has moved to Yuma for the winter. I felt the tug of the cold, wet autumn day. Leaves were blowing off the trees skittering across the lawn, street and roof tops. Finally the rain began. It was a good day to make a huge pot of luxurious cauliflower soup.
We know vegetables are a major component of a healthy diet yet we don’t eat as many as we should. Learning to prepare vegetables that taste good is the key to eating more every day.
Most important is fresh and then a simple preparation to maintain the flavor integrity of the vegetable. Tanimura and Antle packs their produce in the field at the time of harvest. The freshly packed vegetables are transported from the field to the cooler without any stops at a processing plant. The field packed produce has not been rinsed in chlorine or placed in a MAP bag or container at the grocery store.
I could eat soup for dinner every day. Done right it is filling and restorative, without being heavy with fat and calories. This recipe is such a pleasant surprise. It is creamy without any dairy or roux. Roasting mellows the cauliflower flavor, intensifying and transforming this often forgotten powerhouse of nutrition into something special.
For a pleasing crunch and punch of hazelnut flavor it’s worth the time to make the Sage and Hazelnut Crumbs. Be advised, it’s tempting to eat the warm crumbs by the spoonful. If there are any leftover crumbs, warm them briefly in the microwave and scatter them across vegetables later in the week. They are especially good on top of steamed green beans or roasted butternut squash.
|Roasted Cauliflower Soup|
|1 large||head of cauliflower|
|4T||hazelnut oil or olive oil|
|1-1/2t||large flake sea salt|
|1C||diced yellow onion (a medium sized onion)|
|6C||chicken or vegetable stock or broth|
|Sage and Hazelnut Crumbs|
|1/3C||hazelnut oil or olive oil|
|12||fresh sage leaves|
|1/2C||chopped, dry roasted hazelnuts|
- Heat the oven to 425°. Cut the cauliflower florets into uniform size pieces for roasting. Peel and core the apples, cutting them into large pieces, twice the size of the cauliflower chunks. Toss the cauliflower and apples with 3 tablespoons of oil and the salt and spread them across the surface of a large sheet pan in a single layer. Roast the cauliflower and apples for 25-35 minutes, turning them mid-way for even cooking. The size of the cauliflower will determine the roasting time. When the cauliflower can be pierced with a fork and the edges are starting to brown, remove from the oven to cool.
- While the cauliflower and apples roast warm the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large stock pot or enamel coated Dutch oven. When the oil is shimmering add the onion and sauté for five minutes or until the onion becomes translucent. Stir occasionally. Let the onions cool. Keep the stock pot available to warm the finished soup.
- In a blender or food processor process the stock, roasted cauliflower, apples and onions, in batches until smooth. Pour the processed soup into the stock pot. Stir the batches together and warm the soup to serving temperature. If the soup is too thick, add more stock or water. If adding water, taste the soup and add more salt if needed.
- While the soup warms heat 1/3 cup oil in a skillet on medium heat. When the oil is hot and shimmering add the sage leaves in a single layer. When the leaves turn from silver-green to dark green and start to brown turn them to cook on the other side. After the leaves are cooked, remove them from the skillet to drain on paper towels. Add the bread crumbs and hazelnuts to the hot oil in the skillet. Stir until the crumbs toast and become fragrant from the sage infused oil and hazelnuts. Take care not to let them burn.
- Serve the warmed soup with a spoonful of hazelnut crumbs. Garnish with a sage leaf.
Tanimura and Antle shared fresh Salinas Valley produce with me. This is not a sponsored post; the recipe and opinions are my own.
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