Ravenous Fig

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Silky Cauliflower Soup with Parmesan Crisps

[caption id="attachment_581" align="aligncenter" width="545" caption="Look for firm, creamy-white florets that are tight and without brown speckles."][/caption]

For the first time in weeks, Vance and I have gotten to go to our Saturday farmer's market. It's one of those farmer's markets that's open year-round and serves fruits and veggies that could be from anywhere (most are not from within 100 miles). But we have to go to get our bagel fix from Davis Bakery (which has since been sold and will never be the same but we try not to think about that too much). Anyway, I consider it a bit of a personal challenge whenever we go to find something local to take home.

This week, it was cauliflower. Cauliflower's one of those things that's a bit of a blank canvas. You can roast it, eat it raw, cut it like steak and smother it in tomato sauce, turn it into low-carb mashed potatoes, or whazz it up into a luscious, creamy soup. Today, as part of our monthly Fancy Feast, I decided to do the latter.

[caption id="attachment_582" align="aligncenter" width="545" caption="The finished soup and parmesan tuile."][/caption]


This was served among five other dishes in a tapas style spread, all but one of which were total winners (if you're lucky, I'll be disciplined enough to get them all posted to the blog!) Somehow this simple, fast soup made it to the top of Vance's list — the top two of mine. And now that I know how simple and delicious it is, it'll be appearing on our menu just about as often as I can snag some local cauliflower from the market.

Silky Cauliflower Soup with Parmesan Crisps

This recipe is David Lieberman's, but it's likely to make it into next year's cookbook in some form or fashion. It's dead easy to make if you have an immersion blender. Use caution if you're planning to throw it all in a blender!

Ingredients

For the soup:

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 quart low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the parmesan crisps:

  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan
  • Chopped chives, for garnish

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350° F.

Prepare the soup. Remove the leaves and thick core from the cauliflower, coarsely chop, and reserve. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or soup pot over medium heat and add the onion and garlic. Cook until softened, but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the cauliflower and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until the cauliflower is very soft and falling apart, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and, using a hand held immersion blender, puree the soup, or puree in small batches in a blender* and return it to the pot. Add the Parmesan and stir until smooth.

Fried Polenta Cakes with Chipotle Corn Salsa

Fried Polenta Cakes with Chipotle Salsa

Each Monday night Vance and I spend the evening with a quirky community of believers in one of our homes here in the city; I call it a house church, some call it a "LIFE" community. Whatever the name, we start each evening off with some good eats.

Tonight's main dish was a taco salad, brought by another group member, and this hearty side ended up being the perfect wingman. It's a crisp polenta cake with a smoky chipotle salsa draped over the top — crunchy and warm with as much kick as you like. And it was a great excuse to feature the local corn we'd picked up from the co-op last week.

This one takes a bit of careful planning, as the polenta needs to set in the refrigerator for a couple of hours, but it's a definite crowd-pleaser that would appeal to a wide range of tastes.

Fried Polenta Cakes with Chipotle Corn Salsa

Fried polenta adapted from Giada De Laurentiis's Fried Polenta Cakes. Nobody but myself to blame for the salsa. :)

Ingredients

  • 6 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 ¾ cups yellow cornmeal
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted organic butter
  • 2 cups olive oil, for frying
  • ½ a 7 ounce can of Chipotle peppers in adobo
  • 1 barely ripe organic tomato, cut into small dice
  • 4 tablespoons finely diced red onion
  • 2 ears of corn, husks removed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • (optional) Your favorite smoked salt
  • (optional) Sour cream

Polenta Preparation

Start this about 2 ½ hours ahead of time. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Add 2 teaspoons of salt. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the butter and smoked paprika, and stir until melted.

Lightly oil an 11 by 7-inch baking dish. Transfer the hot polenta to the prepared dish, spreading evenly to ½ inch thick. Refrigerate until cold and firm, about 2 hours.

Salsa Preparation

Brush two ears of corn with the 3 tbsp of olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Place the corn on the grill over high heat (you could also do this in a cast iron grill pan in the kitchen if you prefer). Baste with the olive oil and turn occasionally until nice grill marks develop (about 10 minutes). Cut the kernels from the cob and transfer to a small bowl.

Load half of the 7 oz can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce into a small food processor. Pulse until finely minced, scraping down sides as needed. Add about half of the minced peppers to the bowl with the corn (reserve the rest to adjust the heat to your taste).

Add the diced red onion and tomato, and a pinch of smoked salt (sea salt would be just as nice) to the bowl with the corn; stir. Taste and add more of the

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