Healthy Eating: Coconut Cauliflower Soup is packed with flavor and nutrition

We are in the midst of hearty soup weather. I make soup about twice per week from December to March. With a salad and slice of toast,  soup is the perfect winter meal for me. Sometimes I make “everything but the kitchen sink” soup which means that I use up leftovers from the fridge — veggies and some type of protein. Recently it was a turkey lentil soup, which had me combining two different meal options and a partial jar of leftover tomato sauce. I make it up as I go.  Other times I get a yen for a particular flavor profile and search out a recipe that meets my taste buds.

One of my all-time favorite recipe partners is Chef Rebecca Katz. I discovered her work when I was dealing with my cancer diagnosis. Her cookbook The Cancer Fighting Kitchen was my go-to when I was in chemotherapy. She has many wonderful tips about helping cancer patients wake up their taste buds when they have been altered by chemotherapy. A few years ago she came out with Clean Soups:  Simple, Nourishing Recipes for Health and Vitality. It’s a fantastic addition to my cookbook collection — especially because I love making soups.

Today’s recipe comes from this book, although I have tweaked it a bit (in my usual style). It’s more time intensive than most of my previous offerings, but it is so worth it.  It also contains ingredients that are not in everyone’s pantry as staples so you will probably have to shop to make this recipe. I have made this recipe using roasted squash instead of cauliflower and it was equally delightful.  If you are not a fan of cauliflower please give this recipe a chance. Roasting the cauliflower gives this vegetable an entirely different flavor profile. You will need to make the Thai Coconut Broth first. Then you have it ready to use in the soup.  You can freeze the leftover broth for another recipe.

In terms of nutrition, this soup packs a punch. Cauliflower is high in vitamin C and a good source of folate. It’s fat free and cholesterol free and also is low in sodium content. Coconut milk is high in saturated fat, but in a bowl of soup you are not consuming a lot of the coconut milk. It has trace minerals and a small amount of protein. Using coconut milk in this recipe adds flavor and texture.

I enjoy serving this soup with a Southeast Asian-inspired cole slaw and some pita or naan bread. It’s become a favorite in our household. Let me know what you think.

Coconut Cauliflower Soup
2 1/2 to 3 pounds cauliflower, cut into 1 1/2-inch florets
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 carrots, peeled, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 teaspoons Thai Red Chili Paste (you can substitute another chili paste as you like or omit if you do not like spicy food. I make it without and my family adds spice when I serve it.)
2 teaspoons freshly ground ginger
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
6 cups Thai Coconut Broth (see recipe below)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint or cilantro (optional)

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Put the cauliflower, 2 tablespoons olive oil,  1/4 teaspoon salt, turmeric, and pepper in a large bowl and toss until the cauliflower is evenly coated. Transfer to the lined baking sheet and spread in an even layer. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cauliflower is golden and tender.

While the cauliflower is roasting, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat, then add the onion and a pinch of salt and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the, garlic,  carrots, celery and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and sauté until the vegetables begin to turn golden, about 10 minutes. Add 2 teaspoons of Thai Red Chili paste and stir until the paste has coated the vegetables. Pour in 1/2 a cup of the broth to deglaze the pot and cook until the liquid is reduced by half.

Pour 1/3 of the broth into a blender; add the ginger, and one-third of the vegetables, and blend until smooth, adding more liquid as needed. Transfer to a soup pot over low heat and repeat the process two more times. Stir in any remaining broth, along with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and lime juice.  Taste, you may need another spritz of lime juice or a pinch of salt.  Garnish with chopped cilantro or mint (optional).

Thai Coconut Broth
8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 (14.5-ounce) cans coconut milk
3 (1-inch) pieces fresh ginger
2 shallots, peeled and halved
3 kaffir lime leaves, or 1 teaspoon lime zest
1 stalk lemongrass, cut in chunks and bruised
1/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus more if needed

In a 6-quart pot, combine the broth, coconut milk, ginger, shallots, lime leaves, lemongrass, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and bring to a low boil over medium heat. Cook for about 20 minutes. Decrease the heat to low and let the broth simmer for another 30 minutes. Remove the ginger, shallots, lime leaves, and lemongrass with a slotted spoon. Taste and add more salt if desired.Let cool to room temperature before refrigerating or freezing. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to six months.

—  By Deborah Binder

Deborah Binder lives in Edmonds with her family. She is “dancing with N.E.D.” (no evidence of disease) after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2009. She is a foodie who loves to cook from scratch and share her experiments with her family and friends. She attended culinary school on the East Coast and freelances around town for local chefs. Her current interest in food is learning to eat for health and wellness, while at the same time enjoying the pleasures of the table. As Julia Child once said, “Everything in moderation including butter.” Deborah can be contacted atjaideborah@yahoo.com.

 

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