Thursday, April 4, 2013

Cheesy cauliflower soup with grilled cheese croutons

I like hockey.  I mean, I really really like hockey.  I like it so much that I look at the Penguins' game schedule before making plans to do anything other than watching hockey.  It's really a wonder that I still have any friends.

Okay, let me backpedal just a bit: I love hockey.

I love the fast-paced rushes back and forth across the ice.  I love the jarring hits.  I love the rivalries.  I love the finesse needed to handle a puck through the offensive zone, past defenders, and lift it slightly to score a top shelf goal.  And, good gracious, I love watching a player mouth something slightly obscene during a goal celebration with teammates!

But, as with any kind of love comes just a little bit of the opposite.  It drives me crazy when the players play hot potato with the puck on a power play rather than shooting.  I'm ready to tear out my hair when the Pens are defending a 3-on-5 short-handed situation because players took ill-advised penalties at terrible times.  And, my gosh, I absolutely can't stand the Flyers.

All of that being said, I love hockey and the crazy things it does to me.  It gets my heart pumping.  It makes me mumble and grumble incoherently, pace around the living room, and even stress eat.  I've even forced myself to knit just to keep my hands busy without losing hair or packing on the pounds.  After all, swimsuit season is only two months away, guys and gals.

I may never lace up a pair of skates or cover more than a few yards (from the pacing), but watching hockey makes me absolutely famished!  As easy as it would be to order a pizza and polish off half of the greasy yet delicious cheesy pie, it would be much harder to get rid of the stomachache and calorie bomb.  #notworthit

For a healthy and still hearty and off-the-hook cheesy dish, you've gotta try this cheesy cauliflower soup with grilled cheese croutons!

Oh yeah.  I wasn't kidding when I said cheesy.  Maybe I should've said super duper double cheesy.  Would that have properly prepared your eyes and your taste buds?

This soup is creamy and ultra thick and so cheesy... but there's no cream!  It truly is swimsuit-friendly.  And hockey-induced stress eating appropriate, too.

And, in case you're wondering, you won't even notice the cauliflower.  It adds vitamins and fiber and texture without any dominant flavor whatsoever.  Perfect if you have husbands who are vegetable-averse.  Ahem.

Oh, and just in case you thought this was too swimsuit-friendly, I went ahead and tossed in some toasted grilled cheese croutons.  How have I never thought to do this until now?  How, universe, how?  This might be the beginning of a wonderful new chapter in the soup book of my life.

Just make sure to let it cool a bit before devouring spoonful after spoonful -- you won't be able to resist a big bowl of this stuff, or even a second bowl.  Stress eating can lead to abrupt slurping, and abrupt slurping of hot soup can lead to a burned tongue.

If you've ever burned your tongue, you know that burned tongues lead to incoherent grumbling.  And we don't want that.  After all, there's enough grumbling to be had thanks to the hockey.  At least your stomach won't be grumbling; instead, it'll be warm and full and happy :)

One year ago: French onion soup with quinoa and mushrooms; BLTA salad

Cheesy Cauliflower Soup
(adapted from Pink Parsley)
-serves 4-5

A few notes: If fresh cauliflower is in season, feel free to use it in place of the frozen stuff -- specifically, use 1/2 of the head.  I didn't want to waste the remaining half, so I used frozen with great success.

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 shallots, minced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
Ground black pepper
1 medium potato, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth (I used chicken)
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 (1 pound) bag frozen cauliflower florets

For the croutons (enough for two servings):
Butter, room temperature, for spreading on bread
2 slices bread
2 slices American cheese, or whatever cheese you prefer

In a large pot over medium high heat, melt the butter. Add onion and shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 4-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and add the potato, garlic and vegetable broth. Cover the pot and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to a simmer, keep covered, and let cook for about 8 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Meanwhile, heat a nonstick skillet over low-medium heat.  Place cheese between slices of bread and butter one external side and place that side down in skillet.  Meanwhile, butter exposed side of bread while bottom cooks.  When bottom is golden brown, flip and continue to cook until golden brown and cheese is melted.  (In other words, make a grilled cheese.)  Remove sandwich and allow to sit, untouched, for 5 minutes on cutting board.  Cutting into the sandwich too early will create a melty cheesy mess.

Add the cauliflower and cook an additional 5-6 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender. Stir in the cheese and mustard.  Use an immersion blender (or regular blender) to puree the soup to desired consistency (I like it relatively smooth). If the soup is too thick, stir in additional water or broth. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.   Using a bread or other sharp knife, cut grilled cheese into 1-inch pieces to create croutons.  To serve, ladle into individual bowls and top with the croutons and additional cheese as desired.

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