Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Saffron

By • October 13, 2009 6 Comments

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Author Notes: Aesthetically and conceptually, I have always been drawn to cauliflower’s fractal dimension. This vegetable is boundless - there is no end to it. You can look at it in it’s entirety but you can never see all of it You will always be finding something new. It's quite possible that when you look at a portion of this vegetable, you may be looking at something that nobody has ever seen before. From every angle of the universe, I suddenly see that my cauliflower is the most complex, beautiful and unique thing in all the land. The cauliflower is me. The cauliflower is you.

So I figured I best do something special with this one. I needed to think hard. I knew I wanted to roast the cauliflower first, to have those wonderful, enhanced nutty flavors. But I needed to find an accent that rivaled the complexity and richness of this cauliflower. And then it hit me: saffron.

Each saffron flower only contains three of the yellow orange stigmas that must be hand picked, making it the world’s most expensive spice – worth more than its weight in gold, in fact. In India its color is considered the epitome of beauty and is the official color of Buddhist robes. Saffron was used to scent the baths and public halls of Imperial Rome. Francis Bacon wrote of saffron, “it maketh the English sprightly”. It's pungent with honey nuttiness. It's both mighty and diaphanous, and it is divine.

And what platform, for me, to better to showcase these two utterly perfect gems than, of course, a soup. I am extremely happy with this recipe, I must admit. It’s seasonal, snuggly, rich, earthy and, yet, entirely delicate. This soup elicits a myriad of textures and flavors. It’s infinite.

F for Food

Serves 6

  • 1 1/2 pounds califlower, cut into1/2- to 3/4-inch pieces
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely crumbled saffron threads
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 cup half & half
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup Asiago cheese, grated
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Cut cauliflower into 1-inch flowerets (about 10 cups). In a large baking pan toss cauliflower, garlic, and shallots with oil to coat and roast in middle of oven about 30 minutes, or until golden.
  3. Combine 2 cups water and 2 cups low-salt chicken broth in medium saucepan. Bring mixture just to simmer. Remove from heat. Add saffron threads. Cover and steep 20 minutes.
  4. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in heavy medium pot over medium-low heat. Add chopped onion and sauté until very tender but not brown, about 10 minutes. Add cauliflower, shallots and garlic pieces; stir to coat. Add saffron broth. Bring to simmer over high heat. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until cauliflower pieces are tender, about 20 minutes.
  5. Working in batches, puree cauliflower mixture in food processor until smooth. Transfer cauliflower puree to large saucepan. Stir in half and half and bring to simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to simmer before serving.)
  6. Place the grated cheese on a baking sheet, shaped in 6 small discs. Bake at 350°F for 5-8 minutes.
  7. Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with Asiago cheese crisps and serve.

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