This month’s challenge from The Recipe Redux was to share a fun spin on soup. For a while, I thought about offering up a curried soup or a whimsical soup bowl or bread bowl, but then I realized that this was a great opportunity to share one of the suggestions I make in workshops all the time: pureed vegetable soups with fun toppings are a winning option for parents of picky eaters.
When my younger son was in the depths of his super picky phase, I had all but given up hope that there would ever be a time when he ate vegetables other than the occasional raw carrot. Then, one day, I made a pureed vegetable soup and served it with saltines. I showed him how you can crush the crackers into the soup and then scoop them out. And, like magic, he was hooked! I think he ate two bowls of soup that night as I sat (in shock) watching him shovel (and he was pretending to be a backhoe at the time) the soup and saltines into his mouth.
From there we were off and running, topping soups with all kinds of things from roasted chickpeas to grilled cheese croutons to Parmesan cheese. What I learned from this was that it was all about interaction and control. My son enjoyed “playing” with his food and making it his own. Having toppings for the soup made that possible.
Now I can’t promise that this is going to work for everyone. If you’re dealing with kids with texture issues or the rejection of certain flavors, this might not work. But just think, even if they only dip the grilled cheese into the tomato soup for one bite, that’s progress. Even if they only lick the soup off one crouton, that’s something. It is offering a new, safe, and fun way for kids to try a food that they might otherwise be skeptical about.
So I decided to highlight toppings. For this soup, I wanted the toppings to offer two components to the soup: a different texture and a zip of flavor (the punch of color didn’t hurt either). Boy oh boy, did this soup deliver! There were fights over the last bowl. I literally had to scrape the pot clean. Everyone loved the burst of flavor that the pomegranates offered, as well as the salty crunch of the peanuts, to this velvety-smooth soup. It would make a gorgeous addition to any holiday spread and, yet, is simple enough for a weeknight meal. Can’t beat that.
Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Pomegranates and Peanuts
Prep Time: 15 minutes, Cook Time: 25 minutes, Makes 4 servings
2 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets and stalks chopped
32 oz. low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
½ tsp. kosher salt, sea salt, or another coarse salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
½ cup pomegranate seeds
½ cup roasted salted peanuts
In a stock pot or large pot, heat the butter or oil over a medium-high heat. Turn the heat down to medium, add the onion and celery, and sauté until the onion is soft and translucent, 5 – 8 minutes.
Add the garlic and thyme and stir well until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Increase the heat to high, add the cauliflower and stir well, then add the stock, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil and then cover the pot and turn it down to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes, or until the cauliflower is soft, and then puree with an immersion blender or carefully scoop the soup into a blender, remove the little plastic cap that’s in the center of the blender lid to let steam escape, and blend in batches until smooth. Serve immediately, topping each bowl with peanuts and pomegranate seeds or, better yet, allowing each person to top the soup themselves.
Do Ahead or Delegate: Dice the onion and celery, peel the garlic, chop the cauliflower, or fully prepare and refrigerate or freeze the soup (keep toppings separate until serving).
Scramble Flavor Booster: Double the dried thyme and/or add hot chili flakes.
Tip: Did you know cauliflower is a nutritional powerhouse? It is packed with vitamins such as C, K, and even Folate. It also offers 3 grams of fiber per cup and is rich in antioxidants. Additionally, it can be prepared in lots of different ways from raw to serving as a low-carb rice or couscous substitute like in this cauliflower fried rice recipe.
Nutritional Information Per Serving (% based upon daily values): Calories 316, Total Fat: 19g, 30%; Saturated Fat: 3g, 15%; Cholesterol: 7mg, 2%; Sodium: 621mg, 26%; Total Carbohydrate: 26g, 9%; Dietary Fiber: 6g, 25%; Sugar: 12g; Protein: 14g
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