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Paul Bertolli's Cauliflower Soup

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Every week, Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: A little purity between holiday binges.

cauliflower soup

- Kristen

If you found a recipe that told you to put a cauliflower and an onion in a pot, then add water, then add water ... then add some more water, you'd probably put down the cookbook and wander away looking for a cheeseburger, right?

cauliflower & onion

It sounds a little too Charles Dickens, like something that would be served to 19th century prisoners or sad orphans in a musical. It's downright grim, which is why when Simran and Stacie at A Little Yumminess advised me of its inner genius, I felt it was my duty to try it.

I should have known. Paul Bertolli, who was at the helm of Chez Panisse and Oliveto for over 20 years, knows exactly how to make a vegetable -- a rather dejected vegetable at that -- become the best it can be. (In the language of Friday Night Lights, which we speak fluently at FOOD52, he is a kingmaker, the Coach Eric Taylor of the crucifera we never thought would amount to much.)

In Cooking by Hand, Bertolli's IACP award-winning book of recipes and essays, his formula for cauliflower soup is precise to the ounce and simple to follow, even if with a raised eyebrow. (Seriously, more water?)

Paul Bertolli  Cooking By Hand

It's tempting to add crème fraîche or bacon, vadouvan or a thick lump of butter -- trust me, we love those things and all of them would be delicious -- but I dare you to not add a thing.

When you curb your instincts to overseason and overfatten, yes, sometimes you end up with gruel -- but sometimes you end up with a supple, magical puree, one that's delicate and sweet and smooth as a flannel scarf. Even if you're not a fan of cauliflower (Bertolli isn't), you might make an exception for this soup.

cauliflower soup

Like butternut squash, cauliflower is one of those wintry vegetables that puts up no resistance. With a little boiling and swirling in a blender, it completely dissolves into a soup that eats like a hug.

After all that turkey and pie, and before whatever indulgences lie ahead, I think we're all ready for that.

cauliflower soup

Paul Bertolli's Cauliflower Soup

From Cooking by Hand (Clarkson Potter, 2003)

Serves 8

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion (6 ounces), sliced thin
1 head very fresh cauliflower, about 1-1/2 pounds
Salt, to taste
5 1/2 cups hot water, divided
Extra virgin olive oil, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

See a slideshow and the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Want more genius? Try Meta Given's Pumpkin Pie.

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].


Photos by James Ransom


Tags: Editors' Picks, Genius Recipes