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April 23, 2010

I’ve made this soup, oh, a kazillion times or so.  And yesterday I made it again.  Will never get sick of it.  Kale and cauliflower (two all-time favorite foods) plus carrots, chickpeas, sautéed onions, and a little bulgur for texture and bulk — all swimming in a full-bodied broth deepened with olive oil, spiked with habanero peppers, and brightened with a surprising secret ingredient: orange juice.

My “recipe” (more like “ritual” at this point) riffs off of Heidi Swanson’s lovely Chickpea Hotpot.  I’ve adapted it to my tastes and lifestyle, which means the following.

Lifestyle: I like spicy things.  A lot.  One time I said as much in a food writing workshop, and the professor asked me ‘What I think that’s about.’  I don’t really have an answer.  In go the habaneros.

Tastes: I prefer to use produce by the bunch or half-bunch, rather than by the cup or whatever.  It’s not some sort of naturalist statement (refusing to divide a God-given head of cauliflower into civilized units), but pretty much a matter of convenience.  So in the end, my soup winds up chock-full of imprecisely quantified produce, good to get me through half a week at least.

One key aspect of this soup is the broth.  If the broth you use doesn’t taste good, the soup won’t taste good — so find one you fancy.  Personally, I’m a die-hard fan of Rapunzel vegan bouillon cubes with herbs and salt.  The only way to top it, in my mind, would be to call in my Oma to cook up her matzoball soup: simmered the old-fashioned way with a chicken in the pot, parsnip, celery, onions, carrots, all kinds of who-knows-what magic, plus…a package of Lipton’s soup mix, her tried-and-true American twist.  Don’t know how it works, but it does.  Now that I abstain from chicken, this comforting cauliflower-kale number is the closest I’ve come to recreating those childhood days at Oma’s house, nursing a steaming, white-and-blue, old-Jewish-lady-type bowl of pillowy matzoballs and delicious liquid gold.

Enjoy, friends!  See y’all next week.

Katie’s Kale and Cauliflower Soup,
a.k.a. What Oma Would Cook If She Were Vegetarian

1 yellow onion
1, 2, or 3 habanero peppers, halved (careful not to touch your eyes after you touch the seeds!)
2/3 cup uncooked bulgur
3 cubes Rapunzel bouillon + 5 cups water, OR 5 cups veggie broth
a few glugs of olive oil
1 small head cauliflower, cut into trees
1 small bunch kale (depending how big the bunch is — prob’ly half of 1 supermarket unit)
3 carrots, peeled and cut into discs
1 can or so cooked chickpeas
(or you can cook them yourself beforehand — like a coffee-mug’s-worth of dried beans)
a couple pinches of salt
1/2 cup OJ
cilantro if you’ve got some handy

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Dice the onion and throw it into a big soup pot, bottom coated with olive oil, over medium-high heat. (That’s 4 or 5 out of 7 on my dial.)  Halve the habaneros and toss them in, too.  Sautée until the onions are translucent and yummy-smelling.

Meanwhile, measure out your water and bouillon cubes (or broth, if that’s what you’re going with), and start chopping your produce.  When the onions are translucent (about 5-10 minutes), add the bulgur to the pot, stir, and add broth/bouillon + water.  Leave it alone for a while and finish chopping your cauliflower, carrots, and kale.

After 15 minutes or so, add the cauliflower; a couple minutes later, throw in the carrots.  Save the kale for last so it stays nice and green.  Remove the hot peppers before the pot gets so crowded you can’t find them anymore.

When the cauliflower is just about tender, toss in the chickpeas (already cooked, so they just need to get nice and warmed through) and add orange juice.  Taste the broth and adjust as necessary: more salt, olive oil, and/or orange juice.  Turn off the burner and then add the chopped kale, stirring it in so that the heat just barely cooks it through and you still get that nice crunch and structure.

Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with chopped cilantro, if you’re into that.

Voilà!  ¡Bon probecho!

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