Drink Your Vegetables in Cauliflower Soup

For years, we have accustomed ourselves to meat, potato and a side vege or two, and while I love meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans as well as the next person, I find as I get a little older that I simply can’t eat like that day after day anymore. Those mashed potatoes collect around my middle, and the meatloaf applies itself to my hips, and the result isn’t pretty, never mind what my arteries think of the operation.

The alternative is to fill up on vegetables which doesn’t have to mean endless piles of something peeled and steamed. I find I really like vegetable soups, and this thick, richly flavored, and smooth cauliflower soup seasoned with the Indian spice blend gram masala is a terrific and relatively effortless way to pour vegetables into myself.

The recipe came along to me from Susan Kanellakis in Camden, who also makes a fabulous banana bread that she often sends to us on the island along with her husband Rev. Theordore Kanellakis who comes to perform a monthly Episcopal service here. Of course, I tinkered with it because I thought perhaps a vegan/vegetarian option might be helpful for some readers with family or friends who eschew any animal food at all.

Cauliflower has become such a favorite vegetable because there are so many ways of fixing it. As it turned out, I used a head of it to create cauliflower steaks—that is, generous slabs cut from the middle of the head cooked on an oiled frypan with smoked paprika sprinkled on it. That left the rest of the head, about half of it, to use other ways, including this soup.

For best flavor start with onion and garlic softened in oil and butter, then add celery and carrots. Cauliflower provides the substance of the soup, and potato added thickens it smoothly. If you have no objection to meat, then you might use chicken broth, and for the vegetarians and vegans, vegetable broth. I often use miso, the Japanese style fermented paste, which dissolved in water makes a richly flavored broth. Garam masala, a spice mix is in the curry family, adds warmth from a little capsicum. You could make an equally delicious soup by using curry powder alone, or by adding cumin to curry.  Sour cream or yogurt added after pureeing makes it richer but leave it out for vegans.

If you don’t like curry or garam masala, consider using herbs you prefer, perhaps dill or parsley, with salt and pepper.

I served mine with sour cream and a spoonful of my homemade peach chutney.

Cauliflower Soup
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil and butter
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic finely minced, or more to taste
  • 1 rib of celery, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, grated
  • 4 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
  • ½ head of cauliflower, chopped
  • 1 medium potato, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1-2 teaspoons garam masala or curry powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Large spoonful plain yogurt or sour cream
  1. Put the olive oil and butter into a large saucepan or soup pot and heat it over medium heat until it shimmers.
  2. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onions soften, then add the carrots and celery and cook them for about five minutes.
  3. Add the broth, cauliflower pieces, potato, ginger, garam masala, and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables soften, about fifteen to twenty minutes.
  4. Take off the heat, and use a potato masher to make a smoother soup or use a stick blender to puree it.
  5. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
  6. Before serving, stir in a large spoonful of yogurt or sour cream.


Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.