Miraval’s Arugula Salad with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette (and an easy recipe for Vegetable Stock)

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Hi friends – long time no see. I’ve been meaning to get this post up for about a month now, but for a variety of reasons it just hasn’t happened. Life gets busy, I came down with the norovirus, I’ve had a lot of shopping to do for my little baby nephew on the way (!!!)…..excuses, excuses. Mostly though, I’m afraid I haven’t sat down to post this because salad dressing – especially a healthy salad dressing – is just not very exciting.

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I promise that once you make this though, it’s a lot less boring. Believe me when I tell you I’m not a fan of mustard (or any condiment, really), but this dressing is still somehow delicious. I was introduced to it when I took a cooking class at Miraval last month, and since I’ve been back I’ve been making it nonstop. The Miraval recipes are pretty conscious about oil and salt, but it’s amazing how you don’t really miss them here.

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Isn’t this just the prettiest picture you’ve ever seen? Just kidding, it looks gross – sorry! Thickened vegetable stock sounds weird, I know, but it’s a trick they use at Miraval – thicken your veggie stock with cornstarch, and use it in place of (most of) the oil in dressings to cut fat and calories substantially. At first I was kind of annoyed about making the stock, but it’s actually incredibly easy and makes your kitchen smell delicious. You could easily use store bought veggie stock, however – or just skip this step and use more olive oil if you aren’t that worried about it.

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Just throw all ingredients (except for your whole grain mustard and olive oil) into your blender and puree, then slowly add the oil.

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Whisk the whole grain mustard in once the dressing is removed from the blender, so that the grains stay whole. I know it doesn’t look pretty, but it tastes so good (and healthy!).

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You can use this dressing on whatever salad you like, of course, but in the class we made arugula with cranberries, pine nuts, and goat cheese, so that’s what I did here. I used dried cherries instead (my favorite!) and toasted the pine nuts – delicious as a starter, or add some grilled chicken and call it dinner. My favorite Miraval tip, for the next time you’re entertaining: put on a pair of plastic gloves and plate your salad with your hands – it looks so much prettier that way and you can really make it stand up on the plate. If only I could go to cooking school every day!

Miraval: highlights and cookies

One year ago: eggplant parm (yum, now I’m craving this again)

Honey Mustard Dressing, from Mindful Eating

Yield: 2 1/2 cups

1/4 cup dijon mustard
1/2 cup whole grain dijon mustard
2 tablespoons roasted shallots, chopped
1 tablespoon roasted garlic (or raw, or a combination or roasted and raw, depending on how garlicy you like things), chopped
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup thickened vegetable stock (recipe below)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper (black pepper would work fine too)
Chives, optional

If using a mixing bowl: combine mustards, shallots, garlic, honey, and vinegar; mix well. Add thickened stock, oil, salt, and pepper, and whisk to incorporate the stock and oil. Add chopped chives.

If using a blender: Add all ingredients except whole grain mustard and olive oil; blend well. Stream in oil. Pour into a bowl and whisk in the whole grain mustard (so that the grains stay intact – you don’t want them to break down in the blender).

Dressing will be thick and creamy. Toss with arugula and any garnishes you like – I love it with dried cranberries or cherries, toasted pine nuts, and goat cheese.

Nutrition information per 2 tablespoons: 44 calories, 1.5 grams of fat

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Miraval’s Vegetable Stock, from Mindful Eating

Yield: Makes Two Quarts

3 cups onions, peeled and quartered
1 cup celery (no leaves), roughly chopped
1 cup carrots, roughly chopped
1/2 cup leeks, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, quartered
2 tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup fennel, roughly chopped (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
4″ x 4″ cheesecloth
6 inches butcher twine
2 quarts cold water

Heat a large stockpot with the vegetables; stir occasionally for 3-5 minutes to prevent scorching. Tie spices and herbs inside cheesecloth with butcher twine and add to pot. Cover contents with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for two hours. Strain stock and use or cool in an ice bath. Refrigerate or freeze for future use.

Nutrition information per cup: 47 calories, zero fat

For thickened vegetable stock:

2 cups + 4 tablespoons vegetable stock
4 tablespoons cornstarch

Heat two cups of stock to a rolling boil. Combine 4 tablespoons cold stock with the cornstarch to make a slurry. Add the slurry to the boiling stock and whisk constantly until the stock thickens to a sauce-like consistency. Cool completely in an ice bath. Cover and refrigerate for later use. Thickened stock will keep up to one week – stir well before each use.

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Friday Faves: Miraval Edition

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 early morning desert hike

Last week my mom, sister, sister-in-law, and I had the incredibly good fortune to hop a plane to sunny Arizona and spend a few days at Miraval, an amazing resort and spa outside of Tucson that I’ve been referring to as “Oprah’s Spa” (Oprah and Gayle went a number of years ago, and then Oprah sent an entire audience full of groups of girlfriends during her final season – if you were wondering).  Our days went a little something like this: breakfast, fitness class/hike/yoga, coffee/juice/smoothie bar break, classes or lectures (fitness, nutrition, cooking, mental health, photography, you name it), lunch, spa treatment, more classes or lectures, maybe some pool time, happy hour, dinner, bed.   Needless to say, our trip wasn’t nearly long enough and I can’t wait to get back.  A few highlights:

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life in balance spa – my new happy place

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hummingbird mama and her babies in their nest in the courtyard (in a kumquat tree!)

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pool time (not pictured: my prickly pear iced tea, so delicious!)

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desert sunset

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cooking demo with the pastry chef – lemon raspberry cookies and arugula salad with honey dijon vinaigrette (recipes coming next week, get excited!)

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downtime at the villa

Friday Faves

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Adorable “around the world” calendar from Rifle Paper Co. – compliments of my Pop Sugar box

For my birthday back in November, my sister gave me a subscription to Pop Sugar, a monthly delivery of fun beauty products, home goods, accessories, treats, etc.  It can be hard to get through the gray, rainy winter months  in Seattle, so it’s been so much fun to receive a box full of surprises each month – the gift that keeps on giving!  And the “around the world” calendar is inspiring me to renew my passport and plan a trip!  Wishing you all a wonderful weekend – I’m off to Arizona and I cannot wait!  It’s not exactly international travel, but the forecast for Tucson is in the 80s, so this permanently cold Seattleite will take it.

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I’m obsessed with my new detox cleanser  (also from Pop Sugar) – I can literally feel it working

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Nothing better than curry when recovering from a cold (which I have been for the past week, wah wah)

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In love with this necklace – I’ve been meaning to make something similar since I first saw this blog post over a year ago, but these look just like them and they’re already made for me!

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Whole wheat chocolate chip “lactation” cookies

This recipe comes from a friend of a friend (who doesn’t know I’m posting it, but thank you Ellen all the same!).  I whipped up a double batch for a cousin and a girlfriend who both had babies last week, and after posting a photo on Instagram enough people asked me for the recipe that I thought I’d share it.  Note that these are worth making even if you aren’t a new mom (they’re safe for men and non-lactating women too!) – they’re essentially just extra healthy cookies with brewer’s yeast, which can aid in milk production but is also full of protein and B vitamins that we all need.  Since I could only find it in a large tub, I had lots of leftover yeast and thought I’d be extra healthy and put some in my smoothie in the morning…..let’s just say, it’s better in the cookies.

As you’ll see, this recipe is pretty flexible.  Makes 18-20 small cookies.

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter (you could also use coconut oil)
1/2 cup brown sugar (a generous half cup)
1 tablespoon flaxseed meal, such as Bob’s Red Mill
1 heaping tablespoon brewer’s yeast
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup almond meal
1/2 cup oats (a generous half cup)
1/2 – 1 cup chocolate chips, or to taste
Raisins, dried cranberries, and/or nuts, optional and to taste

Melt the butter (or coconut oil) and let cool for a bit.  Mix the flaxseed meal in a small bowl with 3 tablespoons water and let sit for a few minutes until it gels. Mix melted butter and sugar together in a large bowl with a spoon or rubber spatula (these cookies work best when mixed by hand rather than with an electric mixer). Add flax/water mixture, brewer’s yeast, vanilla, baking soda, and salt; mix well.  Add in flour, almond meal, oats, chocolate chips, and other add-ins if using.  Mix until just combined.  Chill if you feel like it.  Bake tablespoon-sized cookies for 8-10 minutes at 390 degrees F (not a typo).

Whole Grain Pear Hazelnut Muffins

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This cookbook has been all over my favorite food blogs of late, so I ordered it despite the fact that my breakfast typically consists of a green smoothie (or a Starbucks bagel on the too-common occasion that I’m out of a green smoothie ingredient). So far I’ve made the whole grain pancake mix, the blueberry breakfast bars, and these muffins. I’ve given the pancake mix as birthday and hostess gifts, and it’s been a hit. I made the blueberry bars when I spent the night with my friend Kyle and her picky toddler year old last week – Ellie gobbled them up, but Kyle and I decided that, while delicious, they seemed more like dessert than breakfast.  Next on my list of recipes to try: Bacon and Kale Polenta Squares (hold the bacon), Strawberry Oat Breakfast Crisp (although I suspect it, like the blueberry bars, might also be better suited as dessert), and Zucchini Farro Cakes – YUM.  And of course variations of this granola.  These muffins, though, are a definite win – you can do them ahead of time, and they really do feel healthy – the perfect breakfast treat.

My grandfather passed away a few weeks ago, at the age of 94. He spent the last few days of his life in the hospital, which was not the way he would have wanted to go, but he received such wonderful care from the doctors and nurses that we were all glad he was there. I wanted to do something nice for the nursing staff as a thank you and had planned to bake these cookies, but my cousin Christina (a nurse herself) suggested bringing in something healthier, as nurses get a lot of cookies.  I had seen these muffins on a couple blogs, and this seemed like the perfect excuse to try them.

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I love the idea of cooking with whole grains – especially oats – and the pears make the muffins incredibly moist and dense without being too heavy. Sara from Sprouted Kitchen suggests a way to make them gluten free; Deb from Smitten Kitchen suggests you add chocolate, which they definitely don’t need, but I would imagine would be delicious.   Point being, you can swap out ingredients or doctor them up any way you like. I loved the pears but you could definitely use apples too.

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It looks like a lot of bowls (and it is), but it’s really only the dry ingredients and the wet, combined with my tendency to make a mess in the kitchen and dirty more bowls than necessary. Deb includes suggestions to “streamline the recipe” (use fewer bowls) for anyone that doesn’t have the luxury of a dishwasher.

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You could chop the nuts in a food processor, but I was worried they would get ground up too finely so I used a ziplock bag and my go-to crushing utensil, a bottle of wine. I also ate a lot of hazelnuts in the process, yum.

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Pear-Hazelnut Oat Muffins, from Whole Grain Mornings by Megan Gordon (she’s a Seattle gal so I’m extra happy to support her!)

Makes 12 standard muffins (and maybe a few more)

3/4 cup rolled oats
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2-3 firm medium pears, such as Bartlett (you want them firm so they don’t get too mushy when you grate them)
2/3 cup natural cane sugar, such as turbinado
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan (I’m going to try coconut oil next time)
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted, cooled, and coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Butter a standard 12-cup muffin tin, or line with papers.

In a bowl, combine the oats, flours, baking soda, baking powder, cardamom, nutmeg, and salt. Mix well and set aside.

Peel and core the pears, then grate them into a bowl using the large holes of a box grater (or the grater attachment of your food processor). You should end up with about 1 cup of shredded pear [Note: I doubled the recipe so grated four pears, and ended up with about four cups of grated pear, unpacked – I dumped them all into my batter and the muffins turned out fine. Just in case you were worried about ending up with too much grated pear].

Put the sugar in a large bowl. In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Add the butter to the sugar and stir until well combined. Whisk in the buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, and pear until you have what resembles a loose batter. Add the flour mixture and fold it in gently. Reserve 1/2 cup of the hazelnuts to sprinkle on top of the muffins; stir the other 1/2 cup into the batter. Be careful not to overmix.

Fill the muffin cups almost to the top with batter, and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup hazelnuts. Put the muffins in the oven and immediately decrease the heat to 375 F. Bake until the tops are golden brown and feel firm to the touch, even in the center, 25-27 minutes (they might look done before they really are – the tops will brown before the fruit-filled centers are cooked through).

Let the muffins cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pan. Muffins will keep in an airtight container for up to two days; they also freeze well.

All wrapped up for Grandpa's nurses, along with boxes of See's chocolates, his favorite

All wrapped up for Grandpa’s nurses, along with boxes of See’s chocolates – his favorite

Kale Salad with Creamy Lemon Vinaigrette and Garlic Breadcrumbs

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I had really good intentions of posting this recipe earlier in the month, when people were still sticking to their new years resolutions. I had big plans for a “salad week” to follow “soup week,” but “soup week” turned into just “three days of soup,” and then things got a little busy and I dropped the ball on salad week entirely. Never fear, though, because it’s still January for three more days. And besides, this salad is so good I think it can be enjoyed long after we’ve given up on our resolutions.

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There was a time, not too terribly long ago, when the thought of raw kale made me wary. I loved it in soups, or sautéed as a side dish, but I really thought the bitterness needed to be cooked out in order for it to be edible. My friend Lindsay told me about this salad, and I must have sounded skeptical because she then sent me the cookbook and demanded that I make it immediately.  As soon as I tried it I was converted. The two tricks are: (1) make sure to use Tuscan kale (aka dinosaur, black, or lacinato), and (2) take the “ribs” out. Tuscan kale is better raw than other kale varieties, and the ribs are what makes it bitter, so once they’re gone you’re golden. I really think cutting the leaves into thin ribbons helps, too, for presentation if nothing else.

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The dressing is the best part – almost like a Caesar dressing, but without the egg and anchovy (which are the reasons I won’t eat a Caesar salad). Just whisk (or blend) olive oil, lemon juice, and good parmesan with a little salt, pepper, a pinch of chili flakes, and garlic. Melissa’s recipe calls for raw garlic, but as I’m not a raw garlic lover I roasted mine first. Coat the kale with the dressing and breadcrumbs and you have yourself a delicious, healthy treat. I’m now pretty into ordering a kale salad whenever I see it on a menu, and with the exception of the “marinated lacinato kale” at Tom Douglas’s Serious Pie, I have yet to find one that beats this.

Kale salad, previously: here (scroll all the way to the bottom).
Kale otherwise, previously: White Bean and Kale Soup, Kale Pesto.

Raw Tuscan Kale Salad with Chiles and Pecorino, from In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite by Melissa Clark

Time: 20 minutes
Serves 2-4

1 bunch Tuscan kale (aka black or lacinato)
1 thin slice country bread (part whole wheat or rye is nice), or 1/4 cup good, homemade coarse breadcrumbs (I made breadcrumbs from gourmet store-bought croutons)
1/2 garlic clove (I used 1 whole clove roasted garlic)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus a pinch
1/4 cup finely grated pecorino cheese, plus additional for garnish
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for garnish
Freshly squeezed juice of one lemon
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Trim the bottom 2 inches off the kale stems and discard. Slice the kale into 3/4-inch ribbons. You should have 4-5 cups. Place the kale in a large bowl. [Note: I de-stem the entire kale leaves, which makes this salad take a lot longer than the 20 minutes Melissa estimates, but I think it’s worth it.]

2. If using the bread, toast it until golden on both sides. Tear it into small pieces and grind in a food processor until the mixture forms coarse crumbs. [Note: I put garlic croutons in the blender and it turned out great.]

3. Using a mortal and pestle or a heavy knife, pound or mince the garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt into a paste (if using a knife, use the side to smear and smush the garlic once it’s minced). Transfer the garlic to a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup cheese, 3 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, pinch of salt, pepper flakes, and black pepper and whisk to combine. [Note: I do this with my immersion blender, which I think makes it extra creamy – and lets you skip the “smooshing the garlic” step. Also I used a whole clove of roasted garlic rather than half a raw clove.] Pour the dressing over the kale and toss very well to combine thoroughly (the dressing will be thick and need lots of tossing to coat the leaves). Let the salad sit for 5 minutes, then serve topped with the breadcrumbs, cheese, and a drizzle of oil.

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Grandma’s Minestrone Soup

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My grandma is a pretty cool lady – she turned 94 this past October, and she’s still going strong. She’s been married for 68 years, raised seven children, and doted on 26 grandchildren and five great grandchildren (so far), with a few more on the way. She’s a three-time cancer survivor and has gone through three hip replacements, and even though she now uses a walker to get around and struggles with arthritis in her hands, she still loves spending time in the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, she’d rather spend her morning shopping and then having lunch at the Nordstrom cafe (she and I have that in common), but even at 94 she still loves to cook for her family.

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Grandma is famous for her soups, though most of them don’t have recipes. Fortunately, she clipped this one out of The Oregonian (our local paper) many years ago, and we’ve all been gobbling it up ever since. It’s a pretty traditional minestrone soup, although you could definitely add/omit any vegetables and beans to your liking. It’s a great January soup because it’s so healthy  – especially if you didn’t add cheese and pesto at the end like my sister and I like to do. You could even omit the pasta if you wanted to, although it’s a pretty small amount so I usually leave it in.

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This soup comes together pretty quickly – you could even use the pre-chopped mirepoix that you can find at Trader Joe’s or high end grocery stores, although I kind of like the thick carrot coins that you can get by slicing them yourself. Of course I always use pre-chopped onions (Trader Joe’s was sold out when I went this time, so I used the onion-shallot-garlic mix, which worked just fine). If you don’t mind chopping onions, lucky you. If you do go with the pre-chopped option, however, all you have to do is slice the carrots, celery, parsley, and cabbage. Everything else just gets dumped right from the can into the soup pot.

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The recipe tells you to start with the broth and just dump all the veggies in. I like to start by sautéing the onions in a little olive oil, then adding the broth once the onions have softened up (5-10 minutes) and following the recipe from there.  I should probably note here that if you don’t have a really large soup pot or dutch oven, you might want to cut this recipe in half.  My dutch oven is a 5 1/2 quart (I think), and I could only add three of the four boxes of chicken stock before I started to worry that the pot would overflow once I added in everything else.  I have no idea what I used to make this soup in, but I’m now in the market for the 7 quart Le Cruset.

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Barely room for the beans and pasta, literally (add the pasta as close to the end as possible so the noodles don’t get too mushy). I ended up ladling about half of the soup into another soup pot and then adding my last box of chicken stock that way (2 cups in each pot). I’m now really thinking hard about what color 7 quart pot I want to get, though, because that just seems like an unnecessary step (read: any excuse to get a new Le Cruset!). This sounds like a shopping excursion for me and Grandma!

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Minestrone Soup, from The Oregonian, a really long time ago

4 quarts unsalted beef, chicken, or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons salt (less if you’re using store-bought broth – I used 2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
3 large carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
5 stalks celery, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 head cabbage, thinly sliced
2 cups chopped onions
1 10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes (you can use a 14 1/2 ounce can if you like a less tomato-y soup, but I love it with the bigger can)
1 6 ounce can tomato paste
1 15 1/2 ounce can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 1/2 ounce can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup uncooked macaroni noodles
Parmesan cheese and/or pesto for garnish (optional)

Bring stock to a rolling boil in a large stockpot.  Add the salt (if using store-bought broth, reduce the amount of salt to 1-2 teaspoons to start with), pepper, oregano, parsley, carrots, celery, cabbage, onions, and spinach. [Variation: I sauté my onions in a small amount of olive oil to begin. Once the onions have softened, add stock, bring to a boil, and add veggies and seasonings as instructed above.] Return to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until carrots are tender, about 30 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and simmer for another 10 minutes. Add the kidney beans, garbanzo beans, and pasta and  simmer until the macaroni is tender, about 10 minutes more. Turn off heat and let stand for one hour before serving. Garnish with parmesan and a dollop of pesto if desired.

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Roasted Cauliflower, Leek, and Garlic Soup

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Back in November I realized I had only posted five soup recipes in the then-nine-month life of this blog, and promised to remedy that.  Somehow two more months have gone by without any more soup – I’m going to blame Thanksgiving and Christmas, but really it’s pretty inexcusable. We’ve done white bean and kale, split pea, cream of fresh tomato, black bean and pumpkin, and curried butternut squash. I don’t know how I’ve had a (wannabe) food blog for almost a year and haven’t posted my favorite lentil soup, or chicken noodle, or even a chili – apparently I’ve been holding out on you all.  I’ve had a sweet potato and apple post in draft form since October, and I’m thinking I might share that this week even though it seems a little fall-ish.  I’m going to make my grandma’s minestrone tomorrow, and I have a couple others I’ve been wanting to try out, so if all goes according to plan this might be a Soup Post Every Day week on the blog (starting today, of course – I got sucked into Downton Abbey on Sunday night and thus couldn’t get this post up as planned yesterday).

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My girlfriends and I had a “cookbook exchange” a while back – like a white elephant, where everyone brings a present, you draw numbers, people can steal from you, etc. – except the presents were all cookbooks. My friend Karrie brought this one, and although I came away with something different, I had heard such good things from Karrie about Clean Eating (she subscribes to the magazine) that when I got home I ordered the cookbook. Some of the recipes seem a little less “clean” and a little more “diet-y” to me (somehow I don’t think of reduced-sodium cream of broccoli soup as “clean,” and there are a few casserole recipes that call for that, which I found strange), but overall I really like it.  And of course January is the perfect month to get really into eating “clean.”  I may have added a little more olive oil and salt than the recipe calls for, but it’s still a lot less olive oil and salt than usual so I feel ok about it.

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I’m not a fan of raw cauliflower, but I’ve recently discovered that (like most vegetables) it’s pretty delicious when roasted. And even better when puréed into a soup. I am a fan of leeks, though, which is why this recipe caught my eye in the first place. It also sounded perfect for a cold January night – it’s not as cold in Seattle right now as it is in other parts of the country, but it’s still soup weather almost everywhere.

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I’m pretty sure you could roast any combination of veggies, purée them with chicken broth, and turn them into a delicious soup – that’s basically all you do here, with the addition of a little nutmeg (which I couldn’t even taste, so I’m not sure it needs it) and milk added in at the end. Oh, and a few bay leaves.

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Your cauliflower will be very soft after it’s done simmering, so I broke mine down with a rubber spatula before puréeing.  That way, you can purée it with an immersion blender easily.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, however, a regular blender or food processor would work fine.  Adding a cup of milk turns it into a gorgeous, thick, and creamy soup you would never think is missing anything (although as I add in the notes below, a few garnishes won’t hurt).

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Roasted Cauliflower, Leek, and Garlic Soup, from The Best of Clean Eating

Serves 10 as a first course/makes 8 cups
Hands-on time: 15 minutes/total time: one hour

3 leeks, white part only, washed and thickly sliced
1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
1/2 head garlic, top cut off so cloves are exposed
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt (or more to taste)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or more to taste)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
3 cups low sodium chicken broth
3 bay leaves
1 cup skim or 1% milk
3 cups shredded basil
3 tablespoons hot water

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Toss leeks, cauliflower, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Spread onto baking sheet and roast in center of oven, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is browned and almost tender, about 25-30 minutes. [Note: I was worried that the soup might be too garlic-y, so I wrapped my garlic in tin foil – probably not necessary but better safe than sorry.]
2. Scrape leeks and cauliflower into a large saucepan or dutch oven. Add chicken broth and bay leaves. When the garlic has cooled a bit, squeeze the cloves from the skin into the pan (discard skins). Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes. Purée soup with an immersion blender, or transfer to a blender or food processor in batches and blend that way. Once the soup has been puréed, stir in milk and add more salt and pepper to taste (I definitely added a little extra here as it tasted pretty bland to me – but remember the basil is going to add a lot more flavor, so no need to panic like I did). Reheat before serving.
3. Place basil in blender with hot water. Purée until smooth. Ladle soup into warm bowls and garnish with the basil. [Note: I followed these instructions and it didn’t work too well – although I suspect it might work fine in a food processor, but I don’t have one (wah, wah). I ended up thinning mine with more water and a fair amount of olive oil; I also added a spare clove of roasted garlic and some salt to spice it up a bit.  At this point I started to wonder why I didn’t just use regular pesto, but I suppose that’s not as “clean.”  Though FYI, you could definitely go that route.  You could also garnish with one or both of my two favorite soup garnishes, parmesan cheese and croutons.  But again, not as clean. Alas.]

Soup keeps in the refrigerator for up to five days; in the freezer for up to a month. Prepare the basil purée a day before serving.

Nutrition info per 3/4 cup serving: 76 calories, 2g fat, 0g saturated fat, 11.5g carbs, 3g fiber, 4g sugar, 5g protein, 114mg sodium, 0.5g cholesterol

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