"What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness."
~ John Steinbeck
Indeed, Mr. Steinbeck. By all accounts I deserve a very sweet summer, given the extended cold snap that made me grimace and curse and contemplate moving to warmer climes. It was the kind of cold that chills straight to the bone, that freezes exposed flesh in a few minutes, that stalls cars and builds character. March definitely came roaring in like an angry Lion, but apparently on the weekend temperatures will be hovering around zero (zero!!!) which means the shedding of layers and bad attitudes is about to begin. Just goes to show if we wait long enough, there is a reprieve to the suffering; that light will triumph over darkness and hot damn I can put away the lady longjohns for another year.
When it's this cold, you don't mess around. You go from A to B, then home again. Grocery shopping is put on hold, and supper is built from whatever is hanging around inside the fridge and pantry. That's why I always have a stash of lentils and other legumes. They add body and protein to just about anything. Lucky for me at the back of the fridge was a head of cauliflower, a large chunk of squash (butternut I think), and praise baby Jesus I had onions (because soup isn't soup without onions). Tossed in a pot with a little olive oil, warm aromatic spices, a can of coconut milk and chicken broth, it turned into something quite lovely. There were handfuls of herbs on their last legs of freshness so I blitzed them into a terrific pesto with whatever nuts and hard cheese I had on hand (almonds and Romano), but whatever you have happening in your fridge should suffice. Ladled into bowls and slurped up eagerly, this soup filled my belly and warmed my soul. We're out of the woods, now, and I'm grateful for it.
Curried Cauliflower & Lentil Soup with Winter Pesto
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups cauliflower, cut into florets
2 cups squash, cubed
1 tbsp garam masala or curry powder
1 tsp turmeric
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 400ml can coconut milk
1 cup red lentils, rinsed well and picked over for little stones
3 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp pesto or more (recipe follows)
2 tsp Sriracha or other hot sauce
salt and pepper
fresh lime wedges for garnish
fresh pea shoots or cilantro for garnish
pesto for garnish
plain yogurt for garnish
In a large soup pot heat the olive oil over medium high heat for 30 seconds. Add the onion, garlic and cook for a few minutes, stirring often. Add the cauliflower, squash and cook a few more minutes. Stir in the spices, making sure all of the vegetables are well coated. Cook 2 minutes. Add the stock and coconut milk, scraping up any bits that are on the bottom of the pan. Stir in lentils. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until lentils and vegetables are tender, about 20-30 minutes. Purée with an immersion blender until smooth, or leave some chunky bits if you like. Stir in lime juice, maple syrup, pesto and hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper, and adjust seasonings. Garnish with fresh lime, cilantro, dollops of pesto, yogurt and more hot sauce. Serves 4 - 6.
1 cup cilantro
1 cup parsley
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup almonds (or other nuts)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1/3 cup plus more extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
In the bowl of a food processor, combine all ingredients and blend until smooth. Add more olive oil if too thick and season well with salt and pepper. Use whatever leafy herbs, nuts and hard cheese you have on hand. Greens like kale and arugula work well too. Makes about 1 cup.