Friday, November 8, 2013

Roasted Cauliflower and Leek Soup

When I think of fall I often think of cold crisp nights, leaves falling from the trees and yummy bowls of delicious soup for dinner to keep warm.  Then I remember that I moved 10 years ago to Southern California.  While we do have some leaves falling from the trees, have decorated the house with pumpkins, and even bought a few Bath & Body Works Autumn candles to keep us in the spirit, it's still 84 degrees today.  This however will not keep me from enjoying a warm bowl of soup full of fall flavors, even if I am wearing shorts and a tank top.

Fall is one of my favorite times of the year.  Although I miss the changing of the leaves I still can create my own Autumn ambiance at home with the smells of fall spices and foods creeping out from our kitchen and into the house to make us feel like putting on our sweaters.  

This roasted cauliflower and leek soup is a great alternative to your typical pumpkin or butternut squash soup for the fall and the holidays.  Not only will it warm your bellies and delight your senses, it's bound to be a wonderful starter to your Thanksgiving meal.  Oh, and don't forget the warm crusty bread for dipping!  I am always thankful for a good piece of warm crusty bread to dip.

Roasted Cauliflower and Leek Soup

1 head cauliflower, chopped into florets
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 large leek, sliced and chopped, reserve 1/4 cup for garnish
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 -1/2 cups vegetable broth
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
1-1/2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped 
1/4 cup half and half (optional)
1/2 cup mild white cheddar cheese, shredded (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash of smoked paprika for garnish
Warm baguette (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, toss the cauliflower and garlic in 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour the olive oil coated cauliflower and garlic onto a large foil lined rimmed baking sheet.  Bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly browned.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

In a dutch oven or large sauce pan heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat.  Add the leeks and celery.  Saute for about 5-7 minutes until the celery and leeks are tender.  Add the roasted cauliflower and garlic and stir to combine.  Add the vegetable broth, thyme and sage and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and  simmer for 20-25 minutes until cauliflower is tender.

Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth.  You can also do this in batches in a food processor or blender.  Add the cheddar cheese and stir until melted.  Pour in the half and half and stir to combine.  Season with salt and pepper.

Place the reserved 1/4 cup of leeks on a small foil lined baking sheet.  Drizzle 1 teaspoon olive oil over the leeks.  Roast in the oven for 10-12 minutes until slightly chard.  

Ladle the soup into bowls.  Garnish with the roasted leaks and a dash of smoked paprika.  Serve warm with a piece of baguette.  Makes 2-4 servings.