I live a little less than a mile from the Union Square Greenmarket, which, if you're not familiar, is an open-air farmers market in NYC that is open a few days out of the week. It's where I get most of my produce.
On Mondays, I strap on some comfy shoes, grab my reusable bags, and walk (or bike) over there with my list of produce for the week. I've been doing this for several months now, so I have started to know the market well, along with some of the vendors and farmers. I have my routine down and my favorite stops.
Mondays have become my favorite day because the market is slightly less crowded in the early morning, and a couple of my favorite vendors are there on that day. One place has quickly become my #1 favorite, because they're organic produce is some of the best looking, and they always have have fun things like watercress micro greens and romanesco cauliflower.
The other day, I picked up a gorgeous head of broccoli and several cauliflower heads from them, and as I was checking out I had a little conversation with a woman who runs the farm. She told me how hard it was to organically grow broccoli and cauliflower and that in order to keep them safe from little critters without spraying them, she (herself) would go around and pick off little munching caterpillars and bugs by hand.
Really? Wow. Awesome. That's some serious dedication.
I told her that there were no words to express how much I appreciated that. I thanked her and walked away feeling grateful that there are people out there, like this lady, who care so much about the quality of food that they provide for people. She rocks.
Cauliflower has been on my grocery list pretty much every week since the Fall came around. I cannot seem to get enough of it. But this soup was not originally about the cauliflower. It actually started with the sage.
Last weekend before making my market list, I had harvested the last of the herbs from my garden - half to be frozen to use in smoothies, and the other half I was going to dry. But as I was cutting my herbs, I realized I had so much sage. So much. Probably because I hardly used sage in the summer, but now the sage needed my love.
I've beena little obsessive with the sage over the past week. Sage with roasted vegetables, sage in salad, fried sage. Yes, fried sage. It sounds un-healthy, but it really is not. Lightly frying sage just makes it a crispy and flaky and mellows out the sage-ness, so it goes really well over soups and salads.
When it comes to soup and most other things, I like lots of toppings. I love the contrast in tastes and textures. Every bite is something different, so it keeps things interesting. This soup has a lot of toppings, starting with that insanely tasty fried sage. You can add more or less depending on your tastes, but I'd err on the side of more. You'll be happy you did.
Cauliflower, sage, and hazelnuts are all such signature tastes of Fall, when you put them together, it's like a Fall explosion. They were all meant to be, together, in one big bowl, especially around this time of year.
cauliflower + hazelnut soup with fried sage
2.5lb cauliflower head (about 8 cups), chopped
(set aside a few florets if you want to top the soup with some caramelized cauliflower)
1 small leek, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
a couple of tablespoons of olive oil
salt + pepper
8 cups of vegetable broth (homemade is preferred)
½ cup of toasted hazelnuts (plus 1-2 tablespoons additional for topping)
1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice OR white wine vinegar
6-8 sage leaves
1-2 tablespoons of sunflower oil (or another high-heat oil, for lightly frying)
optional toppings: extra chopped toasted hazelnuts, roasted cauliflower pieces, fresh black pepper, chives or green onion, micro greens
Toast the hazelnuts:
- Pre-heat the oven to 350º.
- Place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the skins start to peel away, and they are a light brown. Be careful not to overcook / burn because the flavor of the nuts will change dramatically.
- When they are done, allow them to cool slightly and then roll the nuts between your hands to release the skins. Discard the skins and set the peeled hazelnuts aside while you prepare the soup.
Prepare the soup
- Place the leeks and garlic in a heavy bottom pot over medium heat with some olive oil. Sauté for about two minutes, until everything is soft. Add in the cauliflower and season generously with salt and pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the cauliflower starts to brown.
- Add in the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, place a cover loosely over the top and cook for about 20-30 minutes.
- Carefully transfer the soup to a blender. Add in 1/2 cup of hazelnuts and 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice or vinegar. Blend until you have a smooth puree. Taste and adjust any seasoning as necessary. You will probably want to add a little more salt and maybe another tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar. Keep in the blender while you prepare the sage.
Fry the sage:
- In a small cast iron/frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Fry the sage leaves for about 2 minutes on each side until they become nice and crispy. Remove and place on a paper towel.
Assemble the soup:
- Pour the warm soup into individual bowls. Top with the exrta chopped hazelnuts, fresh cracked pepper, chives, and/or micro greens. Also, if you like, you can sauté a couple of florets of cauliflower to add on top.
- This is best served warm, right away. It also makes great leftovers. It will keep for several days in an air-tight container in the fridge.