Cauliflower Potatage ‡

Mark Twain once remarked that cauliflower was “cabbage with a college education”. It has also been described as “elegant cabbage.” But it was rarely found in peasant homes, being grown only for emperors and kings until the late 19th century. By the final quarter of the 20th century, however, and extending well into the next, it had become a staple among the ingredients in my kitchen. You will find it used in a number of recipes appearing in this work, from appetizers to side dishes, to flat breads, as main and subordinate ingredients.

Here, it appears with potato in the guise of a creamy, delectable potage, fit for the royalty who fostered its survival into its present abundance—a mother soup that can be extended by addition of savory ingredients to become delicious alterations worthy of separate appellation. The addition of a little green chile gives it a hint of Santa Fe; a little curry makes it reminiscent of the Raj rule of India; and a little basil and oregano may prompt you to belt out "O Sole Mio." As it stands, it brings a welcome initiation to the meal that follows.

  • 1 quart low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 large cauliflower, green removed, separated into florets
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and roughly cut up
  • 1 onion, diced
  • ¼ cup nonfat half-and-half cream
  • 1 package Butter Buds®
  • ¼ tsp white pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground mace
  • 1/3 cup grated sharp cheddar
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 1 to 2 tbsp potato starch
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook the cauliflower, potato, and onion in the chicken stock or bouillon until each are very tender. Add all other ingredients except the potato starch, lemon juice, and Parmesan cheese and bring the pot to a simmer, stirring until the cheese has melted. Use a hand blender to render a smooth consistency, with no lumps.

If the soup is deemed too thin, make a slurry of potato starch and water (or wine) and add it to the pot and cook it until thickening is complete. Add the lemon juice, stir, and ladle into serving bowls.

Sprinkle a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese over each bowl before serving. Makes about 10 cups.

Root Vegetable Soup ♯

This soup is for those occasions when you perhaps have had a large or late lunch and just want something lighter than a full meal, but satisfying, at the dinner hour. It also works well at lunchtime.

  • 1 medium to large rutabaga, peeled, cubed
  • 1 large carrot, peeled, cubed
  • 1 small potato, peeled, cubed
  • 1 small onion, cubed
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tsp instant beef and onion soup mix
  • ½ cup nonfat sour cream
  • 1 cup nonfat half-and-half
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground mace
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground white pepper
  • ¼ tsp ground dried ginger

Peel the root vegetables, cube them enough to boil evenly, put them in the water, add the soup mix, and boil until tender enough to purée. Add all remaining ingredients and simmer for another 15 minutes. Purée using a stick blender until smooth. Serve immediately.

Makes about 6 cups, enough for 3 or 4, depending on appetite.