Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Little Comfort

The weather is changing. The cheeks I am kissing are cool to the touch. It is officially fall. I am slow to accept this change. My garden looks awful. The mint looks mangy, my echinechia is black. I have been so busy cooking I have not had a chance to tidy up back there. I need some comfort food to console me for the inevitable farewell to backyard picnics for a while.

Comfort food for me is represented by one orange clogs wearing package, Mario Batali. Don't ask me why, I'm not Italian. Somehow Batali's food speaks to my inner soul. Simple yet rigourous cooking techniques combined with excellent ingredients is how I would characterize his style. I loved his TV show, I adore his cook books and I would eat in any of his restuarants anytime I am invited. :- )

It is always in the fall and winter that I turn to Battali's recipes. I am thinking now of a cauliflower soup I watched him demo on Molto Mario a few years ago. It was so basic and so smart and when I made it soooooooo good. Cauliflower is often a hard sell in my house, but this soup manages to woo even the most skeptical. The flavor is earthy and nutty, warming to the mouth and soul. When I make it for myself I sometimes leave out the tomatoes. I also don't always have homemade stock on hand and so will use store bought (with out compromising anything except bragging rights).

I did a little search on the web to see who else likes this recipe and it turns out just about everybody. Every cooking blog and cooking web site has it posted. Ok, maybe not EVERY site, but almost. Which just proves that it is GOOD! So give it a try and get yourself a little comfort.

(My version of) Mario Batali's
Cauliflower Soup: Minestra di Cavolofiore

2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound cauliflower, cut into florets
4 cups Brown Chicken or vegetable Stock
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 bay leaves
Pinch red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
In a pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, and add the cauliflower. Stir over high heat for 5 minutes, until the cauliflower is just beginning to get tender. Add the garlic and cook another minute till garlic begins to soften. Add stock, bay leaf, pepper flakes, and salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer and cook until the cauliflower is tender, about 15 minutes. Add water, if necessary, to ensure that all the cauliflower is submerged in hot liquid.
Add grated cheese to the simmering soup to finish cooking for one more minute. Season with salt and pepper, and drizzle with a little high quality extra-virgin olive oil before serving.

4 servings
I added some shredded collard greens that I had on hand. Batali's recipes are a reflection of peasant style cooking, and lend themselves well to an improvisational style where you use what you have.

I am going to make this tomorrow! I've been waiting for a wonderful, "fall" soup recipe to come into my life! But I must say, you had me stumped on this one. I was having a difficult time coming up with a wine to enjoy along side this soup. I had two things going against me: first, generally, wine is very difficult to pair with soup. Second, cauliflower is a tough match for wine. So, after tossing around a few ideas in my mind, I appealed to my boss, Chuck Russo, owner of Wine and Spirit World. His family has been in the wine industry for 60 years, so I figured if anyone had a recommendation, it would be Chuck. Definitely white, he suggested. We discussed a few options and finely decided that a nice refreshing white would be the best option. Spanish white, such as an albarino would work well. Godello would also be a delicious option. Godello is Spain's answer to Chardonnay. Rich and wonderful, it is one of my favorite white varietals. For producers, look for Val de Sil. They make a few different ones and all are in the $12 to $20 price range.


  1. Still time to plant some radishes and lettuces that love the cool weather and grow quickly! Might take away the garden blues...

  2. This sounds great. Do you have a nice potato leek soup recipe to recommend?


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