October has been a funky month. Lots of new things are going on, all of which are exciting, but I just do not know where the time goes some days. And with the days getting shorter, I feel like I am racing it to sunset. I am a morning person, always more productive in those early hours than at night. When the sun sets, I set. Lately that means I have been sinking into the couch indulging in cookbooks and cooking magazines, soaking up all of the inspiration I can.
I often get asked where my recipes come from. I wish I had a concise explanation, but it is wonderfully complicated. I have been cooking for years, and after many failures (edible and inedible ones) in the kitchen, I have started to figure out what flavor combinations work. That experimentation combined with exploring new restaurants and reading all sorts of cookbooks, magazines, and nowadays, blogs, I have compiled a robust mental library of recipe templates- food combinations that may work, and it comes down to the actual testing and cooking of a recipe to get it just right.
I have a difficult time not modifying recipes I dog-ear. I think this little change would be better suited for my tastes, or I modify because I do not have the exact ingredients listed on hand and make some substitutions. That said, I know that recipe writers work hard at their job perfecting the measurements and ingredients that they believe will make their dish deliciously memorable. I do that here on the blog, but that does not mean that modifications to the recipe are not welcome. They are totally invited! After all, I am just trying to inspire people to get into the kitchen and have a little fun.
This brings me to this little soup combo. Cauliflower and Asian pear may not seem like the most natural combination, but think how well cauliflower pairs with something sweet like golden raisins or sweeter spices and curries. Asian pears lend a honey-like sweetness that I accentuate with just a bit of honey in the little relish that tops this soup for textural contrast. Of course, if you are vegan, maple syrup makes a fine substitute. Cinnamon and ginger are warming and subtle in the background. Potatoes thicken and smooth it all out without cream. The soup can be eaten without the relish, but it is quite yummy. So tasty, in fact, it could be doubled or tripled to serve atop lightly dressed lettuce leaves or mixed into cooked grains or even some lentils the following day.
Cauliflower and Asian Pear Soup with Ginger
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 Asian pear, chopped (other 1/2 used for relish)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 head cauliflower, about 2 lb., leaves removed and chopped into florets (1 cup florets reserved for relish below)
2 small Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 red chili, top removed, sliced in half and seeds removed but left mostly whole
3 cups water
salt and pepper, to taste
Cauliflower, Asian Pear, and Pepita Relish, for serving (recipe below)
Make soup. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 5-8 minutes. Add minced ginger, garlic, Asian pear, and ground cinnamon and cook for 1 one minute or until fragrant. Add cauliflower, potatoes, red chili, a generous pinch of salt, and stir. Add 3 cups of water, bring to boil, and reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 25 minutes or until cauliflower and potatoes are tender.
Meanwhile, make the relish.
When vegetables are cooked, remove pot from heat. Remove chili from pot. (Don't forget this step or you end up with a hot sauce in soup form- trust me). Add mixture to blender (carefully!) and puree in batches, adjusting salt and pepper as necessary. Return soup to pot to warm through. Serve with relish and enjoy! Serves 4-5 people.
Cauliflower, Asian Pear, and Pepita Relish:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup reserved cauliflower florets, chopped finely
1 teaspoon honey (maple syrup, if vegan)
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/2 reserved Asian pear, diced
1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds), toasted until golden and puffed
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add cauliflower and pinch of salt saute until tender and golden, about 8-10 minutes. Add honey and vinegar to pan, and remove mixture from heat to cool. Mix remaining ingredients in small bowl, adjust seasoning, and add cauliflower when cool. Spoon atop soup or eat by the spoonful.