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
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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.

Meatless Monday – Creamy Cauliflower Leek Soup

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Craving a bowl of luscious, creamy rib sticking soup but don’t want the extra calories or carbs?  Well this is it! This yummy creation tastes like a delicious, creamy potato soup but without potatoes or cream. Cauliflower has worked so well as a healthy stand in for so many carbs like rice, potatoes and other grains that I thought to give my  Old Fashioned Potato Soup recipe a cauliflower update.  Pureeing some or all of the cooked cauliflower and vegetable broth into a smooth and creamy consistency makes it easy to omit the cream.  You will swear its loaded with cream but it is actually vegan (unless you top it with parmesan).  I loved this soup topped with a drizzle of herb oil whose sharp tang melds nicely with the creaminess of the soup and dry roasted pepitos that add a satisfying crunch.  Parmesan is another yummy option that adds a salty, creamy dimension.  Purists can top with salt and pepper or swirl in a pat of butter for an even creamier consistency. Yum!

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I paired this yummy soup with a green salad for a completely satisfying meal.  My husband, who often doesn’t feel full without some kind of meat, really enjoyed it and, best of all, wasn’t back at the refrigerator 45 minutes after dinner, which is really telling. Did you know that a head of cauliflower is actually made up of tightly clustered florets which are flowers that begin to form but are halted at bud stage.  They stay white because they are protected from the sun by their leaves, otherwise they would turn green through photosynthesis.  In addition to being cool science,  cauliflower is a wonderful addition to our diet.   It is low in calories and fat, with zero cholesterol but rich in fiber, vitamins (including B complex and C), minerals (manganese, copper, iron, calcium and potassium) and phytonutrients which are key to a healthy immune system and thought to be good cancer fighters.  Cauliflower is mild in taste which makes it extremely adaptable in cooking. You could call it the chameleon of vegetables.

Check out other GMD  recipes where cauliflower reigns (or fools, however you want to look at it): cauliflower ‘pizza’, ‘pasta’ and ‘rice’.

Cauliflower Pizza

Pizza with Cauliflower Crust

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Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Tabouleh7

Tabouleh – Grain Free

 

CREAMY CAULIFLOWER LEEK SOUP

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1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 leek
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 head cauliflower, roughly chopped
1 quart vegetable broth
1/2 tsp. salt (if needed)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil(optional)
2 tablespoons minced chives or green part of scallions(optional)
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley or other fresh herbs(optional)
1/2 cup pepitos (shelled pumpkin seeds)(optional)
1/2 cup parmesan, shredded (optional)

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  • Cut end off leek and slice in half lengthwise. Rinse under running water while fanning the sections of the leek like a deck of cards to remove any grit. Remove dark green leaves and chop white and light green parts.

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  • Core cauliflower and chop into small florets.
  • In a small bowl, combine 2 Tablespoons olive oil, chives, and herbs, if using. Set aside to marinate.

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  • Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add leeks, and onions, cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are very soft, 5 to 8 minutes. Add garlic and wine. Cook, stirring, until liquid is almost completely evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes.

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  • Stir in cauliflower and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until cauliflower is very soft, 20 to 25 minutes.

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  • While cauliflower is cooking, dry roast pepitos in a small pan over medium heat for several minutes, or until golden and aromatic.  Let cool.

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  • In 2 or  3 batches, puree soup in a food processor or blender until very smooth, several minutes. You can puree the whole soup for a velvety smooth texture, or, you can leave about a third of the florets for a chunkier, more ‘potato like’ consistency, (i.e. blend 2 batches and leave the last chunky). Stir together and add salt and pepper to taste.

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  •  Ladle soup into bowls, drizzle herb oil and top with pepitos and parmesan cheese, if desired.  If you want an even creamier consistency, swirl in a pat of butter before serving.

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Creamy Cauliflower Leek Soup

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Cauliflower Leek Soup1

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 leek
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 head cauliflower, roughly chopped
1 quart vegetable broth
1/2 tsp. salt (if needed)
2 tablespoons olive oil(optional)
2 tablespoons minced chives or green part of scallions(optional)
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley or other fresh herbs(optional)
1/2 cup pepitos (shelled pumpkin seeds)(optional)
1/2 cup parmesan, shredded (optional)

  • Cut end off leek and slice in half lengthwise. Rinse under running water while fanning the sections of the leek like a deck of cards to remove any grit. Remove dark green leaves and chop white and light green parts.
  • Core cauliflower and chop into small florets.
  • In a small bowl, combine 2 Tablespoons olive oil, chives, and parsley, if using. Set aside to marinate.
  • Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add leeks, and onions, cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are very soft, 5 to 8 minutes. Add garlic and wine. Cook, stirring, until liquid is almost completely evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Stir in cauliflower and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until cauliflower is very soft, 20 to 25 minutes.
  • While cauliflower is cooking, dry roast pepitos in a small pan over medium heat for several minutes, or until golden and aromatic.  Let cool.
  • In 2 or  3 batches, puree soup in a food processor or blender until very smooth, several minutes. You can puree the whole soup for a velvety smooth texture, or, you can leave about a third of the florets for a chunkier, more ‘potato like’ consistency, (i.e. blend 2 batches and leave the last chunky). Stir together and add salt and pepper to taste.
  •  Ladle soup into bowls, drizzle herb oil and top with pepitos and parmesan cheese, if desired.  If you want an even creamier consistency, swirl in at of butter before serving.