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A 'Top Chef' Cooks Up A Warming Winter Soup

The finished product, garnished with oven-roasted cauliflower, toasted walnuts and brown butter.
Guy Raz
/
NPR
The finished product, garnished with oven-roasted cauliflower, toasted walnuts and brown butter.
Winter is cauliflower season — make sure you get a firm, bright white one with no blemishes.
Guy Raz / NPR
/
NPR
Winter is cauliflower season — make sure you get a firm, bright white one with no blemishes.
Carla Hall says you don't have to be an absolute stickler for the recipe, but tasting is critical throughout the cooking process.
Guy Raz / NPR
/
NPR
Carla Hall says you don't have to be an absolute stickler for the recipe, but tasting is critical throughout the cooking process.

Supermarket produce shelves can be pretty bleak this time of year. You've got the basic apples, oranges, carrots ... and not a whole lot else in season. But when NPR's Guy Raz hit the produce aisle with caterer and Top Chef finalist Carla Hall, she knew exactly what to do: make a cream of cauliflower soup.

It turns out that winter is cauliflower season, and the humble vegetable makes a mouthwatering soup. "I love pureed soups," Hall says.

This particular soup has just a few major ingredients: cauliflower, leeks, garlic, butter and chicken stock. The leeks and cauliflower are roughly chopped and simmered in the stock, then seasoned to taste and run through the blender until the soup is silky smooth.

Hall garnishes this soup with roasted cauliflower florets and toasted nuts. "You want texture in your soup," she says. "In a pureed soup, you just absolutely want some texture."

But Hall says you don't have to be an absolute stickler for the recipe. "You just have to be present, and let the process be a little organic and not be so rigid with the recipe, because you have to feel it. For instance, if I'm doing this soup in season it's going to taste totally differently than it would if it's not in season. You have to honor the produce; maybe you have to add something else in it."

For example, Hall says vegans or vegetarians can substitute vegetable stock and almond milk for chicken stock and cream, and splash on a little walnut oil in place of the brown butter garnish. And you can skip the blender if you like your soup with a rougher texture.

The finished soup is deliciously creamy and comforting — one sip and you feel as if you're curled up in a cozy blanket in front of the fire. Bon appetit!

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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