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

Cauliflower Mac Cheese15

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.

 

Meatless Monday – Pasta Primavera with Summer Squash, Peas and Arugula

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Primavera means Spring in Italian and the popular Pasta Primavera traditionally is pasta, usually spaghetti but other pasta shapes can be used, tossed with a variety of spring vegetables like asparagus, tomatoes and fresh herbs.  In spite of it’s name, it doesn’t mean you can only make this for dinner in the spring.  Pasta Primavera is a very versatile dish which allows for a wide range of vegetables to be used when they are at their best and their cheapest.  Throughout the year, the dish will change depending on whatever is in season.  I typically sauté whatever fresh vegetables looked the best at the market with garlic and olive oil, then braise in a bit of vegetable broth to make a nice sauce.  If my husband isn’t around, sometimes I will swirl in a spoonful of plain yogurt to add creaminess, then top with parmesan.  Yum!

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Today’s pasta has the gorgeous baby squash and zucchini that I couldn’t resist at the market due to their pure cuteness, as well as peas.  I didn’t see any good fresh peas so I used frozen, which are a good option.  They are frozen right after picking so sometimes they are actually fresher than ‘fresh’ peas that have been sitting around for a while. If you are using fresh peas in a pod, choose pods that are smaller.  The large pods are often filled with over mature peas that are tough and woody and only good in soups and stews.   The smaller pods usually have younger, sweeter peas.   I also added fresh basil and mint plus cherry tomatoes and lemon zest from my garden.

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To make this a healthier dish, use a whole grain pasta.  It’s easy to find good pasta made from whole grains like rice, quinoa or amaranth, all of which provide more protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber than pasta made from white flour. Don’t be fooled by packaging on regular pasta that says ‘fortified with iron or other nutrients’. That just means that nutrients like B vitamins  were removed during the refining process, and some of them are added back in.   Whole grain pasta has come a long way from when it used to be soft and gluey, so give it a try if you haven’t.  Livestrong suggests going half regular and half whole grain pasta if you’re having trouble making the switch to whole grain.

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Pasta Primavera with Summer Squash, Peas and Arugula

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

3/4 lb dried penne pasta
1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas, shelled
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
1 small summer squash, thinly sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 red chili pepper(or dash of red pepper flakes – optional)
1/2 cup fresh basil, cut into ribbons
1/4 cup fresh mint, cut into ribbons
1-2 cups arugula or spinach
2 large shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsn lemon zest
3 Tbsn butter, olive or coconut oil
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
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  • Saute the shallots, chilis and garlic in butter or oil until soft, several minutes.  Add vegetable broth and let reduce.
  • Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to directions.  Drain and reserve 1 cup pasta water.

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  • Add zucchini and summer squash to the shallot mixture and cook 2 to 3 minutes.  Then add peas.

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  • Add cooked pasta to vegetable mixture and stir to reheat.  Add a bit of pasta water if needed.

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  • Add cherry tomatoes, arugula, basil, mint and lemon zest and let wilt.  Add salt if necessary.  Depending on the saltiness of your vegetable broth, it may not be needed.

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  • Top with fresh parmesan, if desired.

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