The last couples of weeks have been somewhat of a ‘foodie whirlwind’ for me.
First, there was my trip to Chicago. I ate like a Queen! I had a list of twenty places I wanted to eat, and only four nights (and rather non-existent lunch breaks)in which to try to fit in all the culinary wonders Chicago has to offer.
For those of you who care about such things, this is where I ended up (and what I ate):
Paul Kahan’s Publican – Striped Sea Bass with Pork Belly, Shaved Fennell and Hazelnuts
The Green Zebra (high-end vegetarian) – Roasted Beet Terrine with goat cheese, Cauliflower Pot De Creme with Brioche Toast, Creamed Asparagus Soup, and Sunchoke Ravioli with baby greens and medjool dates.
Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill – Tamarind Margarita and the special seasonal mole with (local/sustainable) Pork Tenderloin, local fruits and cornbread. (For those of you not familiar with Rick Bayless, he won Top Chef Masters on Bravo last year, and he is a wonderful man with a knack for authentic Mexican cuisine and who is dedicated to championing the rights of the migrant worker, and championing the use of local and sustainable ingredients.)
So, there was all that deliciousness. And then I got home and felt like I hadn’t cooked a meal for myself (or others) in ages! I missed being in the kitchen. So, I promptly started cooking. I invited my friend Kari over for gourmet pizzas (with truffle oil, aged balsalmic and fresh mozzarella. I’ll admit, they didn’t turn out as well as I hoped, so I’m not posting them here). I had my friend Laura over two nights later and made Cauliflower and Gorgonzola soup with a Pear Relish (recipe to follow in this post). I made a cold thai peanut noodle salad for my weekly girls night (for the recipe, click HERE). Taylor and Brittany asked if Nich and I were up for another food challenge (of course we were!) and so we spent a night slaving in the kitchen over four new mystery ingredients.
That being said, after the cooking craziness of the past few weeks, I think I may lay low tonight. Its been a good run these past couple of weeks, but I think I need a night where I don’t end up with a sink full of dishes (and a really full stomach). So, tonight I shall fry up a veggie burger (Trader Joes Potato Masala burger…mmmm…) and it will be easy and tasty. And while I take the night off, maybe some of you are in the mood for culinary adventures. And if you are, this cauliflower soup is quite the palette-pleaser. It is delightfully rich and creamy, without being over-bearing. The pear relish adds a gentle sweetness that really balances the strong flavor of the gorgonzola in the soup.
1 medium cauliflower, broken into small florets
1-2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs thyme, plus extra to garnish
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 Liter of vegetable stock (homemade is best, but alas I was all out so I used Trader Joes brand)
1/2 lb Gorgonzola crumbles
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
chopped parsely or fresh thyme leaves for garnish
1 Tbl unsalted butter
3 Tbl dried cranberries, soaked for 10 minutes in water to soften
3 ripe pears peeled and chopped into a 1/2 inch dice
1/4 cup of cider vinegar
2 T granulated sugar
1 cinnamon stick
3 sprigs thyme
Melt the butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the onions and sweat for 5 minutes, until translucent. Add cauliflower, thyme, bay leaves, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring now and then, for 2 minutes. Add the stock, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the cauliflower is soft.
Meanwhile, make the relish. Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the pears and cook for 3-5 minutes until they soften. Add the other ingredients and cook, uncovered, stirring often, for 15-20 minutes, until thick and glossy. Remove the thyme. Season with sea salt and black pepper.
Fish out the thyme and bay leaves from the pot. Stir in the gorgonzola and cream. Pour into a blender and whiz until smooth. (Or use an immersion blender, which is what I use. The immersion blender is my favorite kitchen tool!) Season with salt and pepper.
Ladle soup into shallow bowls. Spoon a generous tablespoon of relish into the center and sprinkle with thyme or parsely.