We're celebrating Meatless Mondays with balanced, delicious meal plans. We hope you'll join us -- whether you're vegetarian all the time or just here and there.
Today: We're applying the law of the conservation of energy to the conservation of cream.
A quick recap of your tenth grade chemistry class: The law of the conservation of energy states that the total energy of an isolated system can be neither created nor destroyed but may only change form.
We're theorizing that that same principle applies to the amount of cream in your dinner. Cream cannot be destroyed, only displaced.
Tonight, you're making a creamy cauliflower soup that contains no cream at all. And because you're dining on such an ascetic soup, you must reach your cream quotient elsewhere. That's where the vegetable gratin comes in. This meal might be a bit mixed up -- the soup is virtuous, the vegetables decadent -- but don't fret: You're still getting the same amount of cream.
Serves 2, with soup for days
1 pound crimini mushrooms
1 medium onion
1 head cauliflower
1/4 cup white wine
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1 pound spinach
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
We're assuming you have butter, olive oil, salt, and black pepper in your kitchen. If not, add those to the list, too.
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Cut the mushrooms into bite-sized pieces, thinly slice the onion, and break the cauliflower into florets.
2. Warm 1 tablespoon of butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan and add the mushrooms, stirring and sautéing until they start to brown. Add the white wine and boil for a couple of minutes, then pour in the cream and milk and let simmer for several more minutes. Take off the heat and leave to steep.
3. Sweat the sliced onion with 3 tablespoons of warm olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan for 15 minutes over low heat. Meanwhile, wash the spinach and steam it for several minutes in a saucepan or the microwave. Drain and squeeze out the water.
4. Add the cauliflower to the onion, salt to taste, and add 1/2 cup water. Raise the heat slightly, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid, and stew for 15 to 18 minutes, until tender.
5. Combine the cooked spinach with the mushroom-cream mixture along with a couple tablespoons of Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a shallow baking dish.
6. Pour 4 1/2 cups of hot water into the cauliflower, bring to a low simmer, and cook, uncovered, for 20 more minutes. Meanwhile, set the table and pour yourself a glass of that white wine.
7. Sprinkle the spinach and mushrooms with the remaining cheese and bake for about 30 minutes. While they're cooking, purée the soup in batches until smooth and creamy. Let stand and thicken for 20 minutes while the creamed vegetables bake.
8. Thin the soup with 1/2 cup of hot water and reheat. Check on the spinach and mushrooms. If the cheese is not crispy, run under the broiler for several minutes.
9. Serve the soup with a drizzle of olive oil, fresh black pepper, and a generous serving of creamed spinach and mushrooms.
Photos by James Ransom