Winter is Back (Pureed Vegetable Soup with Cauliflower and Watercress)
When I was in college in Chicago, some friends and I had a wonderful tradition that sprang up somewhat accidentally. Several of my friends lived in an apartment together, and I was an honorary roommate because I was there so frequently. A few of us started watching Grey’s Anatomy on Thursday nights together, and because it came on shortly after dinnertime, we made dinner together first. Even the people who didn’t like Grey’s Anatomy started joining in the dinner portion, and Thursday night dinners were born.
We would rotate who was responsible for dinner, and as a result, we were all exposed to lots of each other’s family recipes and other favorite recipes. This soup comes from my friend Gaby’s family. She made it one cold, windy Thursday (also known as “Thursday” in Chicago), and it hit the spot perfectly. It’s very healthy but it doesn’t taste “healthy.” You can make a double batch easily; it keeps well and a double batch will make 20 small meals or 10 big ones. By my calculations, it has less than 100 calories per serving, even if you use whole milk, and it doesn’t have all that sodium that canned soup has.
I make this often, when the weather turns cold suddenly or when I miss Gaby even more than I usually do. One spoonful takes me back to Chicago in my mind, where so many of my favorite people still live. It also takes me back to a time when Grey’s Anatomy had yet to jump the shark, but I digress.
This past week, I’ve had this soup every day for lunch and am not sick of it one bit – in fact, I’m looking forward to having it again on Monday.
If you want to freeze the soup, I would recommend not adding the milk all at once. Instead, add the milk when you have thawed and reheated the soup (adding about 2 TBSP of milk per cup of soup).
Gaby’s Soup (Pureed Vegetable Soup with Cauliflower and Watercress)
Slightly adapted from Gaby’s family recipe; makes approximately 10 cups of soup (10 small bowls)
- 1 head cauliflower
- 1 bunch of watercress (I have tried substituting arugula in a pinch, but it was not the same)
- 3 large carrots
- 2 small or medium onions
- 1 TBSP of olive oil, optional
- 1 TBSP of unsalted butter, optional
- 4 cups of hot water
- 1 pinch of nutmeg (preferably freshly ground)
- 1 chicken bouillon cube (or vegetable bouillon cube for the vegetarians)
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander or tarragon (this week I used 2 tsp fresh tarragon left over from this)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Chop the cauliflower into large chunks. Gaby told me she uses just the cauliflower tops, but I’m lazy, and I usually use most of the cauliflower except for the very bottom of the stems (or whatever you’d call that part of the cauliflower).
Peel the carrots and chop them into 1 – 2 inch chunks. Prepare the watercress, removing the watercress from the stems and then chopping roughly. Gaby taught me a great trick for this–leave the watercress in the bunch with the rubber band, and just pull large chunks of the watercress off with your fingers. This will allow you to get most of the watercress off the stems easily.
Chop the onions roughly–don’t worry about making them a uniform size or “bite size,” as the soup will be pureed. Sautee the onions in a large pot. You can sautee them in a tablespoon of butter and tablespoon of olive oil if you want to add a little bit of richness, but it is not necessary. Once the onions have softened and turned translucent, add the water, cauliflower, carrots, watercress, bouillon, and seasonings. If the water doesn’t cover the tops of the vegetables, add just enough water to cover them.
Bring to a boil and let cook until all of the vegetables are soft. The carrots always take the longest, so use those as your tester vegetables.
Look at the cool spoonholder my mom gave us – you can put the spoon so that it drips into the soup!
When the vegetables are tender, remove the soup from the heat. Ladle the soup into a blender, working in batches as necessary. Puree until the soup is smooth. (This batch of soup has inspired me to start shopping for an immersion blender, which I assume would work just as well).
Return the soup to the pot, add the one cup of milk (unless you are freezing the leftovers), and stir the soup. Serve and enjoy.
Or, ladle into a bunch of Mason jars and enjoy later.
This is a double batch.