January 24, 2024

Soups to Cure the Winter Doldrums

Roasted Cauliflower Soup and Cream of Cauliflower and Broccoli Soup

Hello from my corner of the South.  Thank you for joining me here. If the winter doldrums have set in, this might be the place to be. I have plenty of unsolicited advice. Doldrums are a period of no energy and enthusiasm for anything, and I am running into folks all over town who feel frumpy and unmotivated. Yes, it’s overcast and dreary, with a steady rain coming down. 

One thing that snaps me right out of it is a garden. For many years, I lived in Sea Pines on the beautiful island of Hilton Head and was part of the community garden at Heritage Farms.  Now my daughter Margaret lives there and has a garden of her own. I love it any time of the year. With little to do this week, I grabbed an umbrella and walked in the rain through the garden gate into a quiet, peaceful place filled with memories of my garden past. The rosemary was thriving everywhere, along with turnips, spinach, tons of kale, and cabbages. Immediately, I felt better. When I arrived at Margaret’s garden plot at the far end, I saw big white cauliflower heads peeking through green leaves. I knew I must rescue them before it was too late. I left with my arms loaded down with these gorgeous heads of cauliflower, determined to bake them and stir them into a big stockpot of pure comfort.

These beauties are full of antioxidants and fiber; their freshness will shine through with amazing taste and deliciousness. Here’s to good health and many sips of happiness.

I always like to cook the cauliflower with one of Chef Darin’s fabulous spices. Chef Darin has a wonderful hands-on cooking school in Savannah at 2514 Abercorn St.  His kitchen store is a delight and I always come away with lots of inspiration.  For this soup, I used Olivelle’s Mojo Citrus seasoning salt.  If you don’t have it, salt and pepper will work just fine.

I first met Chef Darin when he taught at The Mansion on Forsythe, where I learned so much about techniques.https://www.chefdarin.com/

I prefer using whole milk, it’s nice and creamy but hot heavy.  The bold spices will give it a nice vibrant depth of flavor.

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

Serves 6

2 heads of cauliflower

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper or

sprinkle on Chef Darin’s special seasoning

Extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 red pepper, chopped fine

5-6 cloves garlic, chopped

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 ½ teaspoons sweet paprika

1 teaspoon ground sumac

¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

2 cups whole milk of your choice

Juice of ½ lemon

Fresh dill to taste

4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped

a swirl of Rosemary oil, optional

sprinkle with finely chopped parsley and your favorite grated cheese

I happen to like Manchego but your favorite will work just fine.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  Cut the cauliflower in half from tops to bottom through the stem to make individual florets.

Season the cauliflower in a bowl and combine seasonings with good olive oil. Toss to coat, then spread evenly without overlapping.

Roast the cauliflower and toast for 25 minutes.  Turn and continue to roast for a total of 45 minutes.  Saute the onions in a heavy stockpot with some olive oil over medium-low.  Cook for about 8 minutes.  Add garlic, cumin, paprika, sumac, and turmeric and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Cream of Cauliflower and Broccoli Soup

Cozy and excellent bowls of happiness

Hey, out there. Is anyone freezing where you are? It’s time to warm up with something cozy and simple. This is one of my favorite cold-weather recipes; soul-warming and guaranteed to give you many bowls of warmth and deliciousness. It’s one of the core recipes in my arsenal, and if you can serve it with cornbread, that makes it even better.

Along the South Carolina coast, we have gardens with spectacular displays of locally grown vegetables.  Heads of dark green broccoli grown in rows next to brilliant white cauliflower concentrate the earthy taste of our salt-misted shores. They overwhelm us with their freshness and the intensity of their taste, perfect for wintertime soups.

Creamy, rich soups are needed on days like this when pure self-indulgence is in order. This coveted soup will provide many sips of contentment wherever you are. 

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 leek, rinsed, dried, and minced

1 large onion, chopped

1 carrot, peeled and diced

1 teaspoon dried tarragon

½ teaspoon dried thyme

¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup dry white wine

6 cups chicken stock

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 head cauliflower, steamed just until barely tender, then broken into small flowerets

1 cup broccoli florets, steamed until tender and chopped small

1 cup milk

1 cup heavy cream

2 ½ cups grated Swiss cheese, optional

Take out a large stockpot and melt the butter over medium heat. Add the leek, onion, and carrot and cook until softened about 10 minutes.  Stir in the tarragon and thyme and cook another minute.

Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.  Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the wine and chicken stock.  Season the soup with salt and pepper and add the cauliflower and broccoli flowerets.  Simmer the soup uncovered for 30 minutes.

Puree the soup in batches in a blender and return to the pot.  Stir in the milk and cream.  Heat through. Serve with grated Swiss cheese sprinkled into the hot soup until melted.

I  know you will find this worth cozying up with before a warming fire.