Roast Cauliflower and Garlic Soup with Crispy Kale Chips and a Balsamic Drizzle

Hang onto your hats folks, we’re in for a whirlwind! My excitement over this soup is bursting out of me and it cannot be contained. The best thing for you to do is to hold on, take it all in and then get cooking. I first cooked this soup a couple years ago, but every time I make it I wonder to myself why I wait so long in between whipping it up.

I love creamy vegetable soups, but they are usually laden with heavy cream and high fat milk. A creamy soup that is low in calories and fat, but high in nutrition and flavor? Definitely a win. But a soup that also has added protein? Now that is the ultimate trifecta! A tasty tender trifecta.

Roasted cauliflower and garlic soup topped with kale chips and a balsamic drizzle. No, you don’t have to go to some fancy farm-to-table restaurant to enjoy this cozy dish; you can make it in your kitchen right this minute. Cauliflower is roasted to add depth to its flavor and tenderize it. Roasting the garlic mellows it and causes it to develop a creamy texture. While the vegetables are roasting a light roux is created then mixed with onions, carrots, celery and seasonings.

The sautéed vegetables brown and release their inner juices just before being combined with rich vegetable stock and white wine. The roasted vegetables are added to the pot and everything is pureed to a rustic creaminess. Nonfat plain Greek yogurt lends to the creaminess and provides a very subtle tang. Finally the soup is topped with kale chips for crunch and an easy balsamic drizzle for continued depth of flavor. Go make this. Now. I’ll be running to the kitchen for more leftovers before I pass out from excitement.

Roast Cauliflower and Garlic Soup with Crispy Kale Chips and a Balsamic Drizzle
 
Yield: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 heads cauliflower
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 heads garlic
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon italian seasoning
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon oregano
  • ⅛ teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 12 ounces fat free plain Greek yogurt
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 batch crispy kale chips
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
Directions
for the soup
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with tinfoil and set aside.
  3. Cut the cauliflower into similar sized florets and evenly place on the baking sheet. Toss the cauliflower with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Cut the tops off both heads of garlic so that almost all the cloves are exposed. Place each head of garlic in a little square of tinfoil and curve up the sides. Lightly drizzle the garlic heads with olive oil then season with salt and pepper. Seal up the tinfoil to make little packets of the garlic heads.
  5. Place the cauliflower and garlic packets in the oven. Let the cauliflower roast for 25 minutes then remove from the oven. Let the garlic continue to roast for another 10 minutes.
  6. While the cauliflower and garlic are roasting, heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add two tablespoons of olive oil and the flour and whisk to combine. Continue to whisk until the mixture is light brown in color, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add the celery, onion and carrot. Stir to combine and cook until the onions have started to brown and the vegetables have started to soften.
  8. Add the salt, pepper, italian seasoning, paprika, oregano and chili powder, stirring to combine. Add the wine and water. Bring to a slow boil then cook for 5 minutes.
  9. When the heads of garlic have cooled, squeeze out the garlic cloves and add them to the soup along with the vegetable broth. Cook for 10 more minutes.
  10. Add the cauliflower and cook for 5 more minutes. Using a food processor or immersion blender puree the soup until smooth. Add the greek yogurt and puree until smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.
for the garnish
  1. Heat the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Continue to heat until it has reduced to a 2-3 tablespoons.
  2. Top each bowl of soup with kale chips and a drizzle of the balsamic reduction.

Recipe adapted from The Novice Chef.

Crispy Baked Kale Chips

“Cauliflower is really trendy right now,” the woman bagging my groceries told me last week, “it’s the new kale.” She then proceeded to bag the kale I was also buying and told me that I was right on trend. Well, of course that’s the only reason I was buying these vegetables along with the other eight or so types of vegetables I was buying! To be trendy, obviously. Nothing to do with the fact that both cauliflower and kale are in season right now, nothing at all.

To be honest most of the buzz about food trends confuses me. Certain trends I understand, such as bacon on everything. Yes it has been overdone, but bacon is amazingly delicious and I love that people started pushing the limits for what dishes are acceptable for including bacon. Without this trend you wouldn’t be able to find bacon maple donuts and bacon kettle corn in every US city. Then where would we be? Cupcakes on the other hand? Cupcakes have always been delicious and I don’t think anyone has ever doubted that. What did we get out of the cupcake trend other than an over-saturation of some good, but mostly bad, cupcake shops? Cauliflower and kale are both in season right now, provide a lot of fabulous health benefits as well as taste yummy when cooked just right so of course it makes sense that they are (or were? or will be?) trendy.

I will get to cauliflower later this week, but for now let’s dive into these kale chips. Crunchy, salty and with a hint of spice these kale chips are everything you desire in a snack. Except that they are extraordinarily low in calories and good for you. And not good for you like, “these potato chips were baked not fried so they’re super healthy!” Actually good for you. The best part, other than their addictive crunchy texture, is that they take twenty minutes to make and 99% of that is them sitting in the oven. Kale will always be in season during the winter, which makes it forever a winter trend in my mind so time to start snacking trendy!

Crispy Baked Kale Chips
 
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 bunch kale
  • Olive oil or cooking spray
  • Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.
  2. Wash the kale then dry completely.
  3. Cut the thick rib out of the kale then roughly cut the kale into 1" - 1.5" pieces.
  4. Lay the kale pieces in one layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Lightly spray with olive oil or cooking spray then toss to evenly coat. Do not oversaturate the kale pieces or they won't get crispy.
  5. Sprinkle kale pieces with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Toss to coat.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes.

Recipe from Melissa d’Arabian.

Beef Bolognese Sauce

This is not your momma’s meat sauce. Well it might be, but the possibility of that is highly unlikely. This is certainly not a marinara sauce with some meat casually tossed in. This is a rich, creamy and satisfying beef bolognese sauce. There are a couple differences between this deliciousness and your average meat sauce. The beef bolognese here before you includes rehydrated porcini mushrooms along with their soaking liquid, which becomes a light mushroom stock. We learned from the mushroom overload cheddar burgers posted earlier this week that these babies are mushroom gold when adding a decadent earthiness to beef.

Second is that the milk added cuts the acid of the tomato base and brings a great creaminess to the sauce without overloading it with fat like a traditional cream sauce. Finally, all the different steps- the processing, the sauteing, the eating-with-a-spoon-but-someone-needs-to-taste-test-it-ing- may seem like a lot of work, but once you ravishingly start into that first bite of bolognese coated pasta it will all be worth it. The original recipe calls for using a meatball mixture, typically consisting of beef, pork and veal, but feel free to use whatever you prefer. Or is readily available in your grocery store as was my case.

Beef Bolognese Sauce
 
Yield: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1¼ cups white wine
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and cut into ½ inch pieces
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1¼ pounds ground beef
  • 1½ cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Microwave the water until hot. Add the dried mushrooms and let rehydrate for 10 minutes. Using a fine mesh strainer set over a small bowl drain the mushrooms making sure to reserve the liquid. Set aside.
  2. In a small skillet over medium heat cook the wine until it has reduced to about 2 tablespoons, about 20 minutes. Set aside.
  3. While the wine is reducing use a food processor to finely grind the rehydrated porcini mushrooms. Add the carrot and pulse until the carrot pieces are smaller than a chop, but larger than a mince. Add the onion and pulse until combined.
  4. Heat a large pot over medium high heat. Melt the butter then stir in the mushroom, carrot and onion mixture. Cook until the vegetables are soft.
  5. Add the sugar and minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the ground beef and cook for 1 minute, making sure to break apart the meat with a wooden spoon. Stir in the milk and continue breaking apart the meat. Once the milk begins to bubble, reduce to medium low heat.
  6. Continue to cook the ground meat, making sure to break up the meat often, for 20 minutes. Once the meat has begun to sizzle, stir in the tomato paste to combine. Add the can of crushed tomatoes, reserved mushroom liquid, ¼ teaspoon salt and ⅛ teaspoon pepper.
  7. Cook for another 15 minutes then stir in the reduced wine. Cook for a couple more minutes then remove from the heat. Serve hot over pasta or store in the fridge for 2 days or the freezer for 2 months.

 

Mushroom Overload Cheddar Burgers

A couple of my cousins are fellow food lovers and we always inevitably land on the topic of food. Partly because we are usually gathering for some sort of meal and partly because endless discussions about food is a consequence (or bonus!) of being in my company. Somehow of all the various directions our food conversations could go we always make our way to the topic of fast food.

Now I eat fast food very rarely. And my cousins and I all have great food around our city of Boston that we enjoy frequently. But there is something so universal and instantly crave-inducing about a crispy McNugget, salty skinny fries and creamy soft serve ice cream in a cake cone. It probably has something to do with what’s in the food at these places, but shh! Let’s not ruin it!

The most crave-worthy of all is a juicy, cheesy burger. The last time I was with my cousins they asked when I was going to post a burger so here it is. A mushroom overload cheddar burger. Now originally I was waiting to post this during the warmer months when it would seem more seasonally appropriate. But I couldn’t wait. I had to post it right this second. What else were you going to eat with those zucchini fries?

Mushroom lovers will swoon over these patties loaded with porcini mushrooms and mushroom stock. And if that’s not enough, which is probably the case because there are never enough mushrooms, the burger is topped with a seasoned mushroom and shallot sauté that pairs perfectly with the richness of the sharp cheddar. These burgers will do more than satisfy your burger craving- they will create a whole new craving to have these again and again!

Mushroom Overload Cheddar Burgers
 
Yield: 4 burgers
Ingredients
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ ounce chopped dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 ounces cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • ½ shallot, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 1⅓ pounds ground beef
  • ¼ cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 slices sharp cheddar cheese
  • 4 burger buns
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Microwave the water until hot. Add the dried mushrooms and let rehydrate.
  2. In a large sauté pan heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms and minced shallot then season with salt and pepper. Cook until mushrooms are tender and golden, about 10 minutes, while stirring occasionally. Stir in the Italian seasoning and remove from the heat.
  3. In a large mixing bowl combine the ground beef, chopped onion, minced garlic, rehydrated dried mushrooms and a couple tablespoons of the soaking liquid. Do not overwork the meat, mix until just combined. Divide the beef mixture into four equal portions and form each portion into a 1 inch thick burger patty. Season each side of the burgers with salt and pepper.
  4. Cook the burgers on a grill or grill pan until desired doneness. During the last couple minutes of cooking place 1 slice of cheese on each burger. If using a grill pan tent foil over the pan to help the cheese melt.
  5. Serve the burgers on the buns topping with a large spoonful of the mushroom mixture.

Recipe adapted from Bobby Flay’s Burgers, Fries & Shakes.

Baked Zucchini Fries with Special Sauce

Many people extol the wonderful qualities of winter. They argue that warm winter fires, cozy blanket couch snuggling and glistening snowflakes are romantic and special. Well as someone who lives in a fireplace-less apartment that Matt keeps at a snuggie required temperature year round I argue, what is so romantic about an extra-long work commute on a sandy, dirty snow-covered road?

Yes, I know, January just started and I’m already complaining about winter. January gets me a little down as my favorite holiday of the year is over and there’s nothing to look forward to for the rest of the season. Besides Valentine’s Day, my anniversary, skiing, creamy winter mac and cheeses… but hey, I’m busy complaining here! Sometimes I need a little burst of summer to get me through these long dark days. Aside from actually seeing the sun before and after work, what really gets me thinking about summer are summer vegetables. And french fries, mmm french fries.

Voila! Baked zucchini fries. These fries will have everyone gobbling their vegetables like they’re, well, eating fries. The subtle flavor of the zucchini is amped up by the seasonings in the crunchy coating. Served alongside special sauce these baked zucchini fries may just be habit-forming. My mom used to call it fish stick sauce, but I think special sauce sounds a little more appetizing and versatile. Special sauce is also fitting as it has special powers that include getting kids to gobble up their fish sticks and vegetables. So make these fries and bring some summer to your winter.

Baked Zucchini Fries with Special Sauce
 
Yield: 2 servings
Ingredients
for the zucchini fries
  • 1 large zucchini
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • Salt and pepper
for the sauce
  • ⅓ cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Lightly coat a cooling rack with cooking spray then place on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Set aside.
  3. Cut the zucchini into 3 inch sticks.
  4. Place the olive oil in a small bowl and set aside.
  5. In a separate small bowl combine the breadcrumbs, Parmesan and seasonings.
  6. Working one zucchini stick at a time, dip the stick into the olive, coat in the breadcrumb bowl then carefully place on the prepared cooling rack. Repeat with the remaining zucchini sticks.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. While the zucchini fries are baking, combine the mayonnaise and ketchup. Serve the zucchini fries warm with the special sauce for dipping.
Notes
Zucchini is naturally a soft vegetable when cooked so don't expect a sturdy fry, just one with flavor and an outer crunch.

Recipe adapted from Health Magazine.