Recipe: CAULIFLOWER SOUP WITH LEEKS, CUMIN AND GARLIC CREAM

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Location: Noho, New York

Host(s):  J.H. & S.V.

Occasion: Saturday night in the city with friends

Menu: Cauliflower Soup with Leeks, Cumin and Garlic Cream/ Dandelion Salad with Bacon and Poached Egg/ Herb Roasted Lamb with Rainbow Carrots

Dandelion and egg prep

It always surprises me how you can know someone for a long time, but never know everything about that person.  You really only discover people bit by bit, and I think one of the best ways to uncover new pieces, is through meeting their friends.

In New York, it feels like people have multiple sets of friends: their city friends, summer friends, work friends and hometown friends.  Sometimes it feels like these lives stay separate forever, but when they do converge it can be magical.  You know that ‘how have we never met before’ feeling you get when you meet a friend of friend you really like?  I had that sensation this weekend when S.V. cooked an amazing meal for us hosted at my friend J.H.’s apartment.  S.V. is a great chef and you understand within minutes of meeting her, with her big, wild, beautiful hair and black polished fingernails that she is a unique spirit and a vibrant creative force.  She cooked a very thoughtfully planned dinner for six of us Saturday night.  There were multiple courses, which kept the meal lively with distinct flavors, but also provided us the benefit of lingering longer at the table and giving us a chance to really talk.  The one pot meal can be great and fun and simple, but there is something special about savoring course after course with a group of people, when you have nowhere to be. Within minutes of sitting cross-legged on the floor, around a low table, everyone, whether they knew each other or not, had the same blissful glow about them.  That glow you get when you uncover something unexpected – in this case, the pleasure of a simple, gorgeous cauliflower soup and sweet company.

Dinner Table

Lamb

Eaten dinner

Couch relax

Fire

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how when life gets more complex, as often happens with the passing years, and we get more complicated as people, it’s easy to fall into the trap of holding parts of ourselves back.   It’s as though in an effort to survive, we project an image of ourselves we want the world to see, even if it’s not truly, completely us.  And maybe mixing up our friends is a way to keep it real, keep us real.   So… mix it up at your next dinner.  Share yourself with your friends by bringing different people together.  It’s a lovely, intimate gesture towards all the people in your life, including yourself.

Soup Pour

S.V.’s CAULIFLOWER SOUP WITH LEEKS, CUMIN AND GARLIC CREAM
This soup has a surprisingly delicate taste and the toasted cumin provides the perfect hint of mystery and spice.

Serves 5-6

1½ tablespoons butter
2 leeks, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 medium sized cauliflower, core removed and chopped into pieces
salt & white pepper
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup cream
2-3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
½ leek, finely julienned
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons cumin seeds

Heat 1½ tablespoons butter in a large heavy bottomed pot, when butter begins to foam, add leeks and fry for 1 minute over medium heat.  Add chopped shallots and cook until soft.  Add cauliflower and a quart of water, or enough to cover the ingredients.  Cover the pot.  When the cauliflower is crisp tender, about 7 minutes, carefully pull out a ½ cup of cauliflower bits from the pot and set aside. Cook the rest until very soft, another 6 minutes, covered.  Let mixture cool slightly and then purée until very smooth.  If you like your soup thinner you can add a bit of water.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and keep warm.

Add garlic and cream to a small saucepan and bring the mixture up to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat.  Turn off heat and let steep covered for ten minutes. Remove garlic and set aside cream.

Heat grapeseed oil in a small frying pan until very hot, add julienned leeks and fry until just crispy.  It goes fast at the end so keep an eye on it.  Drain on paper towels.

Heat butter in a small frying pan (you can use the same one as before, just wipe it out) and when it begins to foam, add cumin and toast for 30 seconds.  Add reserved cauliflower pieces (the cauliflower pieces should be broken into small bits) and fry until the cauliflower is a pale gold.

To serve, place a few pieces of the fried cauliflower and cumin in the bottom of each soup bowl, ladle in soup and garnish with a delicate drizzle of garlic cream and some scattered fried leeks.