not all who wander are lost.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Kick Ass Cauliflower Soup (and more!).

My beautiful friend Rochelle and her husband Brad. Good friends, great meals, years of love. 
Today I'm feeling Lonely, just very lonely. And when I feel alone, I like to cook....cause I'm pretty damn good at it and I love to do it. Tonight I cooked for my bestie and her husband: Rochelle and Brad. I made : Curried cauliflower soup with coconut and chiles, sweet and sour shrimp, grilled bok choy with braised mushrooms. And we had some goooood wine. BOOM...and now I feel a bit less loney (and very full!).

No matter how my day is, I always try to remind myself that...Life goes on, and life is beautiful.

All of these recipes were pulled from various Food + Wine magazines, and I loosely followed them but made a few tweaks and changes of my own. Here's my interpretation:

Curried Cauliflower Soup: (P, V, VG)


  • One large head of cauliflower, chopped
  • EVOO
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • ^^^^don't let this intimidate you!! This is the first time ever that I have MADE a curry powder and it is TOTALLY worth the time and effort, because it has a richness and depth to the spice that you won't get from a pre-made-blend. If you don't have the time or want to make curry powder from scratch, then you can use pre-made ... but don't tell anyone that its MY recipe, because it wont taste as good! Also, at the Asian Supermarket or in the "ethnic" aisle of the supermarket you can buy these spices in big bags for like $1.99...they are great to have in the pantry and will keep for a long time if you put them in a mason jar.
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 baking potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces *optional, I just had it so I figured Why Not?
  • 1 turnip, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces *optional, same as above. had it, used it.
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • a bunch of chopped cilantro

In a small skillet, combine the cumin, coriander and fennel seeds and toast over moderate heat, shaking the pan, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder and let cool. Add the turmeric, cinnamon, allspice and cayenne and pulse until finely ground.

In your soup pot, drizzle some EVOO and add the onion, cooking over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic and spice blend and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the wine and cook until evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add the chopped cauliflower, potatos and turnip and stock and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until the vegetables are very tender, about 20 minutes.
Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth and silky. Return the soup to the pot and add the coconut milk. Season with salt and pepper and simmer. Add the cilantro on top right before eating. This soup is EPIC.

My kickass cauliflower soup with cilantro.

Next up is the Bok Choy, which was a first for me. I actually was quite confused in the Asian Supermarket because all of the cabbages had a sign written in Chinese and then in english it just said "Asian Cabbage". After looking at a dozen different "asian cabbages"  I just picked up an "Asian Cabbage". Turns out I did grab bok choy, but in retrospect I would make this dish with BABY Bok Choy. The bigger the cabbage is, the thicker the base of it is, and its just very watery and tasteless. The smaller the bok choy, the more tender and delicious. *When cleaning bok choy, because it gets pretty dirty, I just soaked it in a bucket of water for a long time and then gave it a gentle spin in the salad tosser.*  The mushrooms at the asian market also just siad "Mushroom", so who the hell knows what I got, they definitely weren't shitake...

Grilled Bok Choy with Braised Mushrooms: (P, VG)


  • One package of shiitake (or "mystery") mushrooms, stems removed.
  • EVOO
  • One 1-inch piece of peeled fresh ginger— 1/2 inch smashed, 1/2 inch cut into thin matchsticks
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 scallions, cut into 3-inch lengths
  • 2 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup Oyster Sauce (*can be purchased at any asian supermarket for about $2)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon unaged whiskey or other grain alcohol (I used a splash of Makers Mark)
  • 1 pound bok choy (I don't measure, so I just purchased one back of "Asian Cabbage". Next time I would buy TWO bags of the baby bok choy). 

In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil until shimmering. Add the smashed ginger, sugar and scallions and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves and starts to caramelize, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and the 2 cups of chicken stock and bring to a boil. Cover partially and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender and most of the stock has evaporated, which takes about an hour to an hour and a half. **THIS is "braising", which also was a first for me, and was also not nearly as intimidating as I had drummed it up to be. IF you are feeling lazy then you could absolutely just sautee the mushrooms in a skillet, but I don't think you would have the same tenderness to the mushrooms and depth of flavor. Also, a very important part of braising that no one tells you in recipes is that the water has to be at a slight 'bubble' or 'boil', that's what "simmering" is. So be sure that the heat is just high enough that you still have some movement in the broth.

In a large pot of salted boiling water, blanch the bok choy until crisp-tender, 2 minutes. Drain and cool under running water; pat dry. *Okay, so I'm realizing that there were a ton of "firsts" for me last night. BLANCHING, another non-intimidating thing in the kitchen. Blanching before you grill just gives your vegetables a head start on the cooking process, and your finishing it off on the grill. Essential the blanch and grill are tag teaming your produce, and it's a delicious outcome. BE SURE THAT YOUR WATER IS AT A ROLLING BOIL! I alllllwaaaaays jump the gun and through whatever I'm cooking into a half-assed-pot-of-semi-boiling-water because I'm not very patient. You do NOT want to make this mistake when blanching. Be sure that you don't overcook your bok choy, you want come crispness, so when blanching you just toss it in for TWO minutes, that's 120 seconds only. Douse in cold water so stop the cooking process and then set aside for whenever you're ready to start cooking.

Right before you're ready to serve dinner, in a small saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of EVOO (or coconut oil!!) until shimmering. Add the ginger matchsticks and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until lightly golden, 1 minute. Add the whiskey and cook for 30 seconds. Add about 2 tablespoons of chicken stock from your braised mushrooms and 1/4 cup of oyster sauce and simmer over moderately low heat until thickened, about 5 minutes. Keep the ginger oyster sauce warm until you serve.

Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Brush the bok choy with oil (or just spray with Coconut Oil) and grill over high heat, turning, until lightly charred, 5 minutes. Transfer to plates or a platter and top with the mushrooms. Drizzle the ginger-oyster sauce over the bok choy and mushrooms and serve.

Grilled Bok Choy with Braised Mushrooms


The Sweet and Sour Shrimp were somewhat uneventful comparatively, but super easy and pretty tasty. 

Sweet and Sour Shrimp (P)


  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese chile sauce(aka sriracha chili garlic) (I doubled this because I like SPICY. but it's chefs choice.)
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used coconut oil, healthier alternative to veg oil)
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled

In a small bowl, whisk the ketchup with the soy sauce, chicken broth, sugar, chile sauce, cornstarch and vinegar.

Heat a large skillet until very hot. Add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 10 seconds, until fragrant. Add the shrimp and cook until curled, but not cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk the sauce and add it to the pan. Cook, stirring, until the sauce is thickened and the shrimp are cooked through, 3 minutes.

I served everything with a brown rice/quinoa blend that was kick ass to soak up all the sauces. ENJOY.

Sweet and Sour Shrimp

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