Wheatless Wednesday – Cauliflower Quinoa Chowder Topped with Caramelized Shallots

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It’s starting to look like Soup Season – and this one is magic!  I just arrived at my house in Maine, where summer and fall are definitely having a collision. Summer is not over yet; the days are still sunny and beautiful, but once the sun goes down the temperature drops and sweaters come out. School is back in session, so that means that grownups have to actually go back to work too.  It is this time of year when I still eat salads for lunch but start to crave warm homey food for dinner.  Last night I made this savory vegan Cauliflower Quinoa Chowder topped with caramelized shallots (not bacon), parsley and sliced green onion.  Mmmm… a definite Winner!  This is an easy One Pot Meal that serves about 6 adults with generous portions. This will be one I make again and again.

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This soup has two magic ingredients:  cauliflower and quinoa.  Cauliflower is the chameleon of vegetables.  It can take the place of flour (Pizza Crust), pasta (Mac and Cheese), grain (Tabouleh) or potatoes (Cauliflower Puree).  Adding Cauliflower to foods is a sneaky smart way to get some nutrients in your diet.  Cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6. It is a good source of dietary fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids and a whole host of vitamins and minerals.  I only used one potato in this dish and the cauliflower stepped in for the rest.  If you are trying to avoid carbs (even though potatoes are good ones), you can elinimate the potato altogether and add a bit more cauliflower.

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Quinoa is another master of illusion and can be the star of a main course casserole or added to veggies in a salad.  In this dish it is mixed in towards the end as a thickener and, as one of the Worlds ‘nearly perfect foods’ (as described on the package) it also provides a huge protein boost.  I used Pearl Quinoa which I have never used before, partially because I thought it would add good texture to soup (it did) but also to support the company, Alter Eco, a Fair Trade company who gets its organic quinoa from Quechua and Aymara farmers in who grow the grain 13,000 feet up on the arid and desolate Soar De Uyuni salt flat of Bolivia.  I want to support that kind of effort!  That said, any kind of quinoa will work, so use what you have.

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I adapted this recipe from  Foodie Crush but made a few changes to make it vegan (trying to use less milk and dairy) and based on what vegetables I had on hand.  She has a great recipe though, so you can click on the link to see the original.  I love the color and sweetness that the carrots added.  The original recipe called for red bell pepper which I didn’t have, so I added more carrots and a stalk of celery.  Follow your own tastes (or pantry).  I also used Original flavor coconut millk instead of regular milk and LOVED the added flavor.  This chowder gets it’s thick and creamy texture from the quinoa but also from pureeing one third to a half of the vegetable mixture before adding the quinoa.  If you like it chunky, puree less, if you like a smoother soup, puree more.  Its that easy!

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I love toppings and these really turn chowder into something special.  The caramelized shallots are worth the 15 minutes it takes, trust me.  I recommend making the shallots ahead or while the cauliflower and potatoes are cooking.  This is my Go To substitute for bacon and it works!  Be creative – or be a purist and go bare!

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I eased myself into Maine yesterday with a windy and challenging kayak across the lake where the headwinds tossed water into out kayaks at each wave.  Luckily we had the wind at our backs on the way back and breezed home but I definitely earned my dinner.  I was not disappointed.  I hiked Pleasant Mountain this morning instead of writing this blog (Sorry not sorry).  In the photo above you can see the White Mountains in the distance.  Now I’m looking for leftovers…

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CAULIFLOWER AND QUINOA CHOWDER

1/4 cup olive or coconut oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 russet potato, peeled and diced
1 small head cauliflower, roughly chopped (about 3 cups)
1 quart vegetable broth
2 cups coconut milk (or any other kind of milk)
2 bay leaves
2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 cup pearled quinoa (or regular quinoa)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

TOPPINGS: (optional)

Carmelized shallots*Recipe below
Chopped parsley
Sliced scallions

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  • In large stock pot, garlic and onions in oil over medium high heat for about 5 minutes, or until onions are opaque. Add celery and carrots and cook for about 10 minutes.

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  • Add potato, cauliflower, vegetable broth, coconut milk, bay leaf and thyme. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook for about 10-12 minutes or until cauliflower and potato are softened.

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  • Remove bay leaf. Ladle about 1/3 to 1/2 of the soup into a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Add back to pot. Add salt and pepper.  Taste and add seasoning if desired.

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  • Rinse 1/2 cup quinoa in cold water and add to cauliflower mixture. Reduce to simmer and cook until quinoa is softened, about 15 minutes. If soup gets too thick add water and lower temperature.

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  • Add more liquid if needed.  Serve with desired toppings.  I highly recommend carmelized shallots, parsley and sliced scallions.

CARMELIZED SHALLOTS (makes about 1/4 cup)

6-8 shallots
1 Tbsn olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

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  • Peel and thinly slice shallots into rounds.

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  • Saute in oil for 15  minutes or so until golden brown.

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  • Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.

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  • Place in a small serving dish along with other toppings.

Cauliflower Quinoa Chowder

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
20150915_204149

1/4 cup olive or coconut oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large onion, diced1 teaspoon salt
1 stalk celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 russet potato, peeled and diced
1 small head cauliflower, roughly chopped (about 3 cup)
1 quart vegetable broth
2 cups coconut milk (or any other kind of milk)
2 bay leaves
2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 cup pearled quinoa (or regular quinoa)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

  • In large stock pot, garlic and onions in oil over medium high heat for about 5 minutes, or until onions are opaque.
  • Add celery and carrots and cook for about 10 minutes.
  • Add potato, cauliflower, vegetable broth, coconut milk, bay leaf and thyme. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook for about 10-12 minutes or until cauliflower and potato are softened.
  • Remove bay leaf. Ladle about 1/3 to 1/2 of the soup into a food processor or blender and process until smooth.
  • Add back to pot. Add salt and pepper.  Taste and add seasoning if desired.
  • Rinse 1/2 cup quinoa in cold water and add to cauliflower mixture. Reduce to simmer and cook until quinoa is softened, about 15 minutes.
  • Add more liquid if needed.  Serve with desired toppings.  I highly recommend carmelized shallots, parsley and sliced scallions.

CARMELIZED SHALLOTS (makes about 1/4 cup)

6-8 shallots
1 Tbsn olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

  • Peel and thinly slice shallots into rounds.
  • Saute in oil for 15  minutes or so until golden brown.
  • Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.
  • Place in a small serving dish.

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