Monday, December 05, 2005


Cauliflower Soup with Truffled Cheese

Scarcity leads to desire. Well, I'm not entirely sure that's true, but in the case of truffles (the mycological kind, not the chocolate ones) it must be. They are rare and coveted, mysterious and magical, and I love them. The tantalizing smell of dark rich soil and heavy muskiness fills every corner of your head and lingers like wood smoke. The pungent aroma gives most people a swooning feeling and a fullness of your senses.

What drives me to the brink (the brink!) is that this is something that is so elusive that we have to limit ourselves to special occasions to indulge. Or do we.

Fresh white Italian and black French truffles are only available in autumn and early winter, but with the proliferation of truffle peels, lower quality truffles and some that are harvested in Oregon, an ever widening availability is upon us. While I am leery of most of the so-called truffle-by-products (they are usually chemically enhanced) such as truffle butter or truffle oil, there are some that drive me to distraction. Like truffle cheese. It makes my head swim, my senses perk up and my eyes dance. I love it. While I have seen a few (maybe four) available around town, the most easily obtained is the truffle studded, soft cows-milk Sottocenere.

Because there is a chill in the air (ok, it's not that cold, but you know it's gloomy-wintery) I wanted some warming soup and this cheese, so I made the logical jump to roasted cauliflower and potato soup, and then topped it with the cheese. It was smooth, redolent of the roasted cauliflower sweetness and had just enough essence of truffle to send me into orbit. I was utterly blissed out, rising upward into the empyrean. You will be too. Try it and enjoy.

1 medium head of cauliflower
Olive oil
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 leek, white part only, sliced thin
1 large potato, peeled and rough chopped
Truffled cheese to taste
Chives and black pepper for garnish

Preheat your oven to 400F

Slice the cauliflower and toss with some olive oil. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet, season with some salt and roast for 35-45 minutes, stirring a few times, until golden browned.

In a large sauce pan, sweat, (cook over low heat until softened but not browned) the leeks in some olive oil. Add the chicken stock, potatoes and a good dash of salt. Simmer over medium heat until the potatoes are softened, about 10 minutes depending on the size you cut the potatoes. Add 3/4 of the cooked cauliflower and simmer for another few minutes. Using an emersion blender or (in small batches) your jar blender puree until smooth.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, garnish with some of the remaining cauliflower, some chives and top with a few crumbles of the cheese.

Makes four to six servings


Someone, somewhere, once told me Italians call white truffles angels and black truffles nuns, but I can't seem to clarify that anywhere online

The Italian white truffle is considered to be superior in smell and taste to the French black truffle

North Americans consume about 140 pounds of potatoes per person/year. Europeans, 290 lbs per person/year

Cauliflower is a variety of cabbage, with an edible head of condensed flowers and flower stems called curds

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Something to dream about tonight. Thanks for the recipe!
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