Recipe: Cauliflower Cheese Soup
The vegetarian collective based in Ithaca gave birth to a popular cookbook and launched the career of Molly Katzen back in the 1970s, yet despite changing times, the soup remains the same
By Louise Crosby
There was a time in my life when I lived with friends in an old farmhouse in the country, with chickens in the yard, a big vegetable garden, and lots of cats. During the week, we drove into the city for jobs or school, but come the weekend, we were back-to-the-landers in plaid shirts and work boots, often congregating in the big homey kitchen at some point in the day to cook a communal meal. A rosy picture, I know, but those are my memories. Our little hippie commune worked out pretty well for awhile.
We were all interested in healthy food, and made a lot of beans and brown rice. Unlike now, when new and wonderful cookbooks come out every day, there weren’t as many recipe books to choose from. I mostly remember the Fannie Farmer Cookbook, The Tasajara Bread Book, Diet for a Small Planet, and the Moosewood Cookbook, by Mollie Katzen. We cooked a lot from the Moosewood.
I still have the original 1977 Ten Speed Press softcover edition written when Katzen was a member of the Moosewood Collective in Ithaca, New York. It’s a charming, home-made kind of book, with Katzen’s own hand-drawn illustrations and hand-written text. Some of the pages in my book are falling out, but by now it’s a collector’s item and I wouldn’t part with it for the world. Nor do I need to buy the 40th anniversary revised edition, although that would be a great idea for some people.
Of all the recipes in the Moosewood, it’s this Cauliflower Cheese Soup that has stood the test of time. It’s the first thing I think of when I look at a cauliflower. As with most recipes, it has undergone some changes, but only minor ones. I use fresh dill instead of dried, and omit the caraway seed (ugh) and the buttermilk. I also reduce the amount of grated cheese from 1 1/2 cups to 1 cup, with no discernible difference in flavour.
In presenting this recipe to you today, I’ve been a bit more specific than Katzen was with the instructions. Most importantly, if you want your potato, cauliflower and carrot to all be done at the same time, you need to cut the carrot quite fine while keeping the potato and cauliflower pieces uniform.
As many of you will know, Mollie Katzen parted ways with the Moosewood Collective and went on to write other cookbooks, including The Enchanted Broccoli Forest and Still Life With Menu. (The Moosewood Collective has also published its own series of cookbooks.) But it’s the Moosewood that Katzen is famous for; it has become possibly the most popular vegetarian cookbook in the world. At least for me and my friends, it marked the start of our cooking lives. And that makes my tattered old book pretty valuable.
Cauliflower Cheese Soup
2 cups potato, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 cups cauliflower, broken into 1-inch florets
1 cup carrot, cut into ¼-inch dice
3 medium cloves garlic
1 cup onion, finely diced
1½ teaspoons salt
4 cups water, vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup grated cheddar
¾ cup milk
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, to taste
2 tablespoons butter
1½ cups more cauliflower florets, chopped fine like confetti
Chopped scallions and extra cheese for garnish
Put potato, 2 cups cauliflower florets, carrot, garlic, onion, salt, and water or stock in a soup pot. Bring to a boil, then lower heat, cover, and simmer 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Let cool 10 minutes.
Transfer mixture to a blender, or use an immersion blender, and purée until smooth and creamy. Return soup to pot, and whisk in the cheddar, milk, dry mustard, fresh dill, and pepper.
Melt butter in a fry pan over low heat and add the 1½ cups cauliflower confetti. Gently cook, covered, until al dente (or softer, if preferred). Add to the soup. Gently reheat the soup and serve topped with chopped scallions and extra cheese.
THE EX-PRESS, November 25, 2016