Thursday, October 8, 2009

Cauliflower Apple Soup with Apple Cider Reduction

Every year when I turn the calendar to October, I get an insatiable desire to cook. I think I equate fall with cooking. And, since fall is my favorite season of the year and cooking is my favorite hobby, it only makes sense that I spend more of my waking hours in the kitchen than in other seasons.
I clipped this recipe more than a year ago. When I was given the opportunity to make a dish with apples in it for a church function, I knew a variation of this recipe would fit the bill nicely. I followed most of the steps of the original recipe, but found the flavor lacking. A few tweaks here and there and it was perfect. Below is my adaptation. Don't let the number of ingredients intimidate you. Enjoy!

Cauliflower Apple Soup with Apple Cider Reduction
2 cups apple cider
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 cups sweet onion, chopped
2 tsp Madras curry powder
1 tsp garlic, chopped
6-7 cups cauliflower florets (about 2 pounds)
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 Gala or golden delicious apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1/2 cup half-and-half
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp kosher salt, divided
1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Boil apple cider in a small saucepan. Cook (reduce) until the liquid has reduced to approximately 3/4 cup (about 15 minutes). Set aside and cool completely.

2. In large bowl, toss cauliflower and onion with 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread on cookie sheet and roast in 400-degree oven until cauliflower begins to brown, approximately 20-25 minutes. Stir partway through cooking and add apples during second half of cooking.
3. In large Dutch oven, heat 1/2 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add curry powder and garlic and saute for one minute, stirring constantly (to avoid burning garlic). Add cauliflower, onion, apple and broth, then bring to a gentle boil. Cover and reduce heat; simmer 15 minutes or until apples are soft enough to mash and the cauliflower is very tender.
4. Remove pan from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Puree batches of the cauliflower mixture in a blender (or emulsion blender) until smooth and place in separate bowl. Once the soup is entirely blended, return soup to Dutch oven and add half-and-half. Cook over medium heat for five minutes or until soup is heated (do not boil).
5. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice, cinnamon and salt and pepper to taste.
6. To serve, divide soup into eight 1-cup portions. Drizzle 2-3 tsp of cider reduction over each serving.

Substitution Suggestions: Any cooking apple will work here. I prefer something sweeter than the tart Granny Smith. Golden delicious (which are related to red delicious in name only) are sweeter and currently in season, so that's what I used.
If you prefer a vegetarian version, swap out the chicken broth for vegetable or mushroom broth.
If you don't have half-and-half, evaporated or whole milk would also work. I just don't think fat-free milk has the body necessary for this soup, though it is incredibly creamy even without any milk.

Lessons Learned: I used a hot curry and skimped on the measurement a little. It gave the soup just a hint of non-thermal heat without overpowering the dish. The dish felt a little flat until I added the healthy dash of cinnamon. That made all the difference in the world.
Don't let the tiny serving size on the cider reduction fool you. You really need it! Forgoing it would be a big mistake since it packs a lot of flavor in those few teaspoons.
If you are in a hurry, you can ditch the roasting step. Just saute the onions in 1/2 tbsp olive oil before adding the curry and garlic, then proceed as if you had roasted the bulky ingredients.

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