I’ve only been cooking mostly vegetarian foods for about twelve years. I used to think that all stocks and soups are improved by long cooking–because, for instance, one must cook beef and chicken stock for many hours, until the bones release their flavor and meat falls off the bone. What I’ve learned about vegetable soups is that shorter cooking times are often better. For instance in this Cauliflower and Fennel soup. If you cook it too long, the cauliflower changes and becomes cabbage-y, not necessarily bad, but not as refined as when you cook the cauliflower only to tenderness. Note that you need a Vitamix or other high power blender for this soup. No one will believe it is vegan, because it seems creamy. I’ve stopped adding pepper because I like the pure taste of the vegetables. The soup freezes well. Makes about 7 quarts.
1/4 cup avocado or other neutral vegetable oil. Don’t use extra virgin olive oil in this soup; the high heat destroys its value.
2 medium yellow or white onions, peeled and chopped (I use the food processor)
2 heads of fennel (save the lacy fronds for garnish)
1 large head of cauliflower
water or light vegetable stock
salt (good salt is worth it in this recipe)
parsley (optional: if it’s growing outside, I add a handful.
Clean the fennel by slicing off any brown edges or the bottom and rinsing the heads. Save some of the fronds for a garnish. Chop the rest by hand or in a food processor.
Clean the cauliflower by cutting off any brown pieces and rinsing. You will use the whole thing, including the core and the leaves. This is an economical soup! Cut or break the head into pieces about 2 inches in size.
Heat the oil in a large heavy pot and add the chopped onions. Cook about 5 minutes. Then add the chopped fennel and cook another 5 minutes.
Add the chopped core and leaves of the cauliflower and 4 quarts of water or stock. Simmer another 5 minutes or so.
Finally add the cauliflower florets (and the parsley if you have it) and simmer until a knife pierces the florets easily, about 10 minutes.
Immediately blend the soup, first on low, then on high, in batches the size of your blender. Dump the blended soup into a 11 or 13 quart bowl or a stock pot. If you want to be fancy, you can put the bowl or pot in an ice bath. Once the entire soup has been blended, taste for salt. If you used water, you’ll want to add a couple of tablespoons of salt, but whisk them in one at a time and taste after each addition. If you are freezing some of the soup, you might like to delay adding more stock or water (to save freezer space), but the soup should not be thick! It should be the consistency of half and half.
When you are ready to serve the soup, reheat it gently (don’t boil it too long), possibly with more liquid if it is too thick. Garnish with a swirl of cream or extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of minced fennel fronds or chopped parsley or chives.