I have been dreaming about this cauliflower soup  ever since I first saw it on the Food 52  site last month. I don’t know why. There’s nothing at all that’s fancy about it. And, it’s probably one of the simplest soups in the world to make. But, something about it just spoke to me – or rather gently whispered in my ear, over and over again. It looked so light and bright and pure – almost cleansing, in a way. I filed away the recipe, knowing that I would get back to it as soon as I found some beautiful, fresh cauliflower that was worthy of it.
This recipe for this soup comes from Paul Bertolli’s book, Cooking by Hand . Bertolli was a chef at the famed Chez Panisse for over ten years, so it’s not surprising that he knows exactly how to make a cauliflower sing. And, sing it does! There are only five ingredients in this soup, and one of them is water. None of them are butter or cream. Yet, it is so smooth and velvety, you’d never guess. It’s the perfect little, guilt-free indulgence after eating your way through a long Holiday season.
To start, onions are sautéed in olive oil over low heat until they are tender and sweet.
Then, the cauliflower is added and stewed with the onions. After that, the water is added to the pot and everything simmers. I swapped out a cup or so of the water with some chicken stock. You don’t need to do this. I just did because I had some broth in the fridge that I needed to use.
Once the cauliflower has finished cooking, the whole pot is pureed into the smoothest, most divinely luxurious soup you’ll ever taste. I swear! But, don’t take my word for it. Make a pot for yourself. Then, slide into your fluffiest bathrobe, put some cool cucumber slices over your eyes and pretend you’re at a fancy schmancy spa.
Paul Bertolli’s Cauliflower Soup
adapted from Cooking by Hand  (Clarkson Potter, 2003)
Note: You can also use a mixture of water and chicken or vegetable broth in this soup. It is wonderful either way.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped or thinly sliced
- 1 head very fresh cauliflower (about 1-1/2 pounds), broken into florets
- Salt to taste
- 5 1/2 cups water, divided
- Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Warm the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-low heat. Sweat the onions in the olive oil without letting them brown for 15 minutes.
- Add the cauliflower florets, salt to taste and 1/2 cup water. Raise the heat slightly, cover the pot tightly and stew the cauliflower for 15 to 18 minutes, or until tender. Then add another 4 1/2 cups hot water, bring to a low simmer and cook an additional 20 minutes uncovered.
- Working in batches, purée the soup in a blender to a very smooth, creamy consistency. Let the soup stand for 20 minutes. In this time it will thicken slightly.
- Thin the soup with 1/2 cup hot water, if needed. Reheat the soup.
- Serve hot, drizzled with a thin stream of extra-virgin olive oil and freshly ground black pepper.