Monday, June 8, 2009

Cooking to Save the Planet: Cream of Broccoli and Cauliflower Soup

Another of those cooking-to-save-the-planet postings, designed not so much to provide precise recipes as to provoke thought about ways we can all use fresh, local, low-on-the-food chain foodstuffs to produce tasty and healthful meals, if we use our heads (and what's available to us locally and seasonally):

Steve went to the store yesterday to replenish our larder after our week out of town. He found broccoli and cauliflower on sale. Since we like and often eat both, he bought several bunches of broccoli and a head of cauliflower.

And here's what I decided to do with them: I cut the woody stems of the broccoli away, saving them, and also removed all the bottom leaves and the core of the cauliflower, saving them, too. I then steamed the cauliflower, set it aside, and steamed the broccoli heads in the same pot, removing them when they were just tender and still green.

Into the water remaining in the steamer pot (and adding more), I put the broccoli stems, cauliflower leaves and core, and an onion coarsely chopped, along with a few spoons of sea salt and some fresh-ground black pepper. I simmered this until all the vegetables were well-cooked.

I then pureed the vegetables and their broth, and ran them through my chinoise strainer to separate the woody bits from the pureed vegetables. The puree sans woody parts went back into the soup pot, I added some fresh-grated nutmeg and a few cups of milk, and tasted for salt and pepper.

To thicken the soup, I took a peeled baked potato and sliced it into the puree, pureeing it in turn with the cauliflower-broccoli puree. I then took one of the broccoli heads and about half of the head of cauliflower, and chopped both coarsely in a wooden bowl I use for chopping vegetables and fruits.

I set these chopped vegetables aside as I brought the puree back to boiling point and then turned it down, at which point I tipped the chopped vegetables into the pot. When they were heated through, the soup was ready to serve with cheese, bread, and a fresh cucumber salad I'd made when Steve got home with the groceries.

If you don't mind a bit of higher technology than the stove, and don't happen to have a baked potato on hand to add to the pot, I find it often works well for me to bake a potato quickly in the microwave, and peel it immediately after it's done. And tonight, the remainder of the cauliflower will go into a dish I just read about in a Czech cookbook I bought at the Strand in New York: cauliflower and scrambled eggs.