I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Blackberry Cobbler with Bourbon Sauce

Blackberry Cobbler with Bourbon Sauce

I call this dish a cobbler, but I know that description can be controversial. I served this dish to my family, and as the spoons scraped the plates, a discussion came up about what is a cobbler exactly. We each described different types of dishes, and went through all the other names for similar dishes – grunt, buckle, crumble, slump, betty…When the plates were clean and the remnants of sauce being eaten by the spoonful, I asked if they thought I should give the dish a different name. The general consensus was, when it’s as good as this, who cares what it’s called.

This sauce is rich and delicious, but you could add a scope of ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.

 

Blackberry Cobbler with Bourbon Sauce
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. Blackberry Cobbler
  2. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  3. 1 cup granulated sugar
  4. 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
  5. ¼ teaspoon salt
  6. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  7. ½ cup butter (1 stick), melted and cooled
  8. ¾ cups whole milk
  9. 2 cups blackberries
  10. Bourbon Sauce
  11. ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  12. 1 cup light brown sugar
  13. 2 teaspoons vanilla
  14. 2 egg yolks, at room temperature
  15. ¼ cup bourbon
For the Cobbler
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 2-quart baking dish.
  2. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl with a fork. Add the melted butter, vanilla extract and milk and stir until the batter is smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the blackberries over the surface.
  3. Bake for 40 - 45 minutes until puffed and golden around the edges and a tester inserted in the center of the batter comes out clean.
  4. Serve warm or at room temperature.
For the Sauce
  1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, then whisk in the sugar and vanilla. Bring to a low boil over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is cohesive. Pull the pan off the heat and and cool slightly. Slowly whisk the egg yolks into the mixture and whisk until the sauce is combined and slightly thickened. Whisk in the bourbon and return to the heat, whisking constantly until the sauce thickens slightly. The sauce should be the consistency of thick syrup.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Salmorejo (Chilled Spanish Tomato Soup) with Frozen Olive Oil

Salmorejo (Chilled Spanish Tomato Soup) with Frozen Olive Oil

Salmorejo is gazpacho’s simpler cousin.  It’s a fresh, chilled tomato soup without the added peppers, cucumbers and other business found in gazpacho.  I’m not a huge fan of gazpacho, because it varies so wildly and people seem to put all kinds of crazy ingredients in it.  You never know what you are going to get. But Salmorejo is right up my alley.  I first tasted Salmorejo in its homeland of Andalucia in Southern Spain but forgot the exact name of the dish and didn’t do much research when I came home.  But a few years ago, I was staying with friends near the beach close to Valencia, Spain and on a trip to the grocery store, I saw cartons of chilled Salmorejo (next to the cartons of gazpacho) and suddenly remembered the lovely soup from my earlier trip.  We grabbed a couple of cartons and served them for lunch.  Unfortunately, the first carton tasted a little off… So we opened the next carton and it exploded all over the patio.  I think it had fermented.  I was kind of embarrassed that I had insisted on buying it.  Oddly, I took this as a challenge and decided when I came home, I had to explore the recipe.

I read many, many recipes and most simply blend the ingredients, chill and serve.  But this method for soaking the ingredients mellows the soup, cutting the bite of the onions and garlic and softening the tomato skins.  The soaked bread is a simple thickener often found in Mediterranean dishes.  Use half a crusty baguette and serve the rest with the soup, or use up some older, slightly dried leftover crusty bread.

I saw a picture of a chilled soup with olive oil ice cubes floating in the bowl in a magazine years and years ago and it stuck in my head waiting for the right application.  I don’t generally recommend buying specialty kitchen equipment, but I found some little round ice cube trays at a dollar store, so seek them out, they are pretty inexpensive.  You can always use them for plain ice cubes.  If you don’t have a small ice cube tray, drizzle the soup with a fruity, quality olive oil.  Salmorejo is traditionally served with whisper thin pieces of jamon Serrano and sometimes boiled eggs.  You could also serve the parsley picada from this wonderful White Gazpacho recipe.

Salmorejo (Spanish Chilled Tomato Soup) with Frozen Olive Oil
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. ¼ cup fruity extra virgin olive oil
  2. ½ small yellow onion
  3. 1 ½ pounds plum tomatoes
  4. 8 ounces baguette
  5. 2 cloves garlic
  6. 2 Tablespoons kosher salt
  7. ½ cup olive oil
  8. 2 Tablespoon sherry vinegar
  9. salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Divide the ¼ cup olive oil between the cubes of an small ice cube tray (about 2 teaspoons a cube). Freeze until firm, 8 hours or overnight.
  2. Slice the onion and place in a large bowl. Half or quarter the tomatoes (depending on size) and place in the bowl. Tear the bread into large chunks and add to the bowl with the crushed garlic cloves and the salt. Pour over enough boiling water to cover and leave to soak for an hour.
  3. Drain the tomato and bread mixture over a bowl, reserving the soaking liquid. Pick out the tomatoes, onions and garlic as best you can and place in a blender. Add the ½ cup olive oil and the vinegar and a little of the soaking liquid and blend to a rough puree. Use your hands and the back of a spatula to press as much liquid as possible out of the bread and add it to the blender. Turn on the blender and puree, drizzling in some of the soaking liquid, until you have a smooth, creamy soup. If you would like a silky soup, pour it through a strainer into a bowl, pushing all the liquid through. Let the soup cool, then cover and chill for several hours or overnight.
  4. Serve the soup cold with frozen olive oil floating in each bowl.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
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Seriously Fresh Blueberry Pie

Seriously Fresh Blueberry PieWhen the summer blueberries are so abundant, I love to feature them in a way that doesn’t mask their sweet-tart and tender beauty.  And this pie is chockfull of blueberries.  A pile of fresh berries is bound together with sweetened berries and just a hint of cornstarch to thicken things up.  I prefer this to the sometimes gelatinous pie fillings you often find.  And it is so easy to make, its perfect for lazy summer weekends. Because I am not going to fault you for using a pre-made rolled pie crust. 

Nutmeg is a wonderful complement to blueberries. The first time I served this pie, I go that wonderful response “what is that flavor – it is so good”.  Nutmeg is mysterious and elusive, but adds such a unique twist to a blueberry dessert.  You can absolutely serve this pie with lightly sweetened whipped cream (try tangy buttermilk whipped cream) or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. 

Seriously Fresh Blueberry Pie
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. Pastry for a 9-inch pie, fully baked and cooled
  2. 4 cups blueberries
  3. ¾ cup granulated sugar
  4. zest and juice of one lemon
  5. ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  6. 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  7. 1 Tablespoon butter
Instructions
  1. Place 1 cup blueberries and the sugar in a medium saucepan. Zest the lemon into the blueberries and squeeze the juice into a measuring cup. Add water to make ½ cup liquid and add to the blueberries. Stir in the nutmeg and cook over medium-high heat until the berries begin to burst. With an immersion blender, or very carefully in a blender, puree the blueberries until smooth. Mix the cornstarch with just enough water to make a smooth paste, then stir it into the blueberry mixture and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. Stir in the butter until melted. Leave to cool.
  2. When the mixture is cool, stir in the remaining 3 cups of blueberries and stir to coat. Spread the mixture in the prepared pie crust and chill for several hours.
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Bourbon Grilled Flat-Iron Steak with Southern Bacon Bourbon Butter

Bourbon Grilled Flat-Iron Steak with Southern Bacon Bourbon Butter

When I was a teenager, I loved to entertain (I still do).  I thought I was a real gourmet, because I knew how to cook – no help from my mom.  We used to have other families for dinner, and sometimes I’d have dinner parties for friends.  My favorite meal was flank steak in teriyaki marinade.  I probably served it 100 times, never thinking that the guests might get tired of it.  The recipe came from a cookbook called A Man’s Taste published by the Junior League of Memphis.  My dad and a friend of his spearheaded this project in an effort to show those Junior League ladies that men could cook too.  And the book was a success.  The recipe below is a version of that original, with the grown-up addition of bourbon.  I think flat-iron is a lovely cut to grill, but you could use flank steak if you prefer.

I never bothered with any embellishments to my teenage steak dinners – I thought an actual recipe from an actual cookbook could not be fiddled with or changed, silly me.  Now, however, I love to add a slice or two of compound butter to any grilled steak. It takes a pretty simple preparation and makes it elegant and full of flavor.  And I have to say, this Southern Bacon Bourbon Butter may be my best version yet.  Sweet and tangy with smoke from the bacon and the grill, it melts lusciously over the meat, leaving just a hint of crispy bacon and green onion behind.

Bourbon Grilled Flat-Iron Steak with Southern Bacon Bourbon Butter
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. Southern Bacon Bourbon Butter
  2. 1 slice of bacon, cooked until crisp
  3. ½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
  4. 1 Tablespoon bourbon
  5. 1 Tablespoon sorghum
  6. 1 green onion, white part only, finely chopped
  7. generous grinds of black pepper
  8. pinch of salt
  9. Bourbon Steak
  10. ¼ cup soy sauce
  11. ¼ cup cider vinegar
  12. ¼ cup bourbon
  13. 3 Tablespoons honey
  14. 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  15. 1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
  16. 2 minced garlic cloves
  17. 2 finely chopped green onions
  18. 1 pound flat iron steak
For the Butter
  1. Finely chop the cooked bacon, and place it in a bowl with the remaining ingredients. Use a fork to thoroughly mash and whip the butter until well combined. Scoop the butter onto the short end of a piece of waved paper and use the paper to roll the butter into a tight log, twisting the ends like a candy. Refrigerate for several hours until firm. The butter will keep for a week in the fridge or can be frozen for a few months.
For the Steak
  1. Combine the soy sauce, bourbon, vinegar, honey and oil together in a bowl and whisk to combine. Whisk in the ginger, garlic and green onions. Place the steak in a large ziptop bag and pour over the marinade. Seal the bag and squish it around to cover the steak. Place the bag on a plate and put it in the refrigerator. Marinate for several hours, turning the bag over occasionally.
  2. Remove the steak from the refrigerator 30 minutes before you plan to grill it. Preheat a grill to medium-high. Remove the steak from the marinade and wipe any excess off with a paper towel. Place the steak on the grill and cook for 5 minutes, flip and cook until medium rare, about 150°, 5 minutes more. Remove from the grill, cover with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  3. Slice in thin strips across the grain of the meat. Serve with thin slices of the Southern Bourbon Bacon Butter melting over the top.
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Sugar Cake with Blueberry Basil Compote

Sugar Cake with Blueberry Basil Compote

I was first drawn to this recipe, because, well, who could resist something called sugar cake. It reminds me of the great classic song “Tea for Two”, the Ella Fitzgerald version is on my kitchen playlist. “Day will break and I will wake, and start to bake a sugar cake, for you to take for all the boys to see.” Recipes for Sugar Cake are scattered through community cookbooks, mostly a version called Moravian Sugar Cake, which involves yeast. But I came across this simple version and had to try it. It is dense and tender and beautifully yellow, with that thick, chewy crust so perfect on a moist loaf cake. I sprinkle the top with sugar to create a crackly sweet bite.

Simple cakes like this are the perfect vehicle for summer’s fresh berries. A simple tumble of blueberries with some lightly sweet whipped cream would be lovely, but I love pulling together the fruit and herbs of summer. This basil-scented blueberry compote is not too sweet, and lets the flavor of the berries really shine.

Sugar Cake with Blueberry Basil Compote
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. Sugar Cake
  2. 3 large eggs
  3. 1 ½ cups white sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  4. 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  5. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  6. ¾ teaspoon salt
  7. 1 cup heavy cream
  8. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  9. Blueberry Basil Compote
  10. 1 pint of blueberries, washed and stemmed
  11. 2 Tablespoons honey
  12. 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  13. 5 – 6 basil leaves (attached to the stem is easiest)
For the Sugar Cake
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan generously.
  2. Beat the eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer until lemon yellow, then add the sugar and beat until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the flour, baking powder and salt alternately with the cream, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla until you have a smooth, thick batter. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle about 1 Tablespoon sugar evenly over the top of the batter.
  3. Bake the cake for 50 minutes to an hour, until a tester inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it. Cover the top loosely with foil when it starts to brown. Cool the cake in the pan.
For the Compote
  1. Place the blueberries, honey and lemon juice in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir well, and cook until the berries are soft, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Mash the berries with a fork and cook until the compote is thickened and reduced. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the basil leaves. Leave to cool, then remove the basil leaves. Refrigerate the compote until ready to use. It will keep for 3 days in the fridge.
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Parmesan Zucchini Bites

Parmesan Zucchini Bites

Quick, summery and simple.  This is the perfect passable bite for a party or a wonderful side to a summer meal.  If you tend to end up with a couple of extra zucchini hanging around after a trip to the farmers market, this is a great way to use them up, as a starter or a snack.  Serve these while still warm, but you can make the mayonnaise mix hours ahead and prepare the slices about 20 minutes before broiling.  And of course, you can double or triple the recipe for a crowd.

Parmesan Zucchini Bites
Yields 36
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Ingredients
  1. 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  2. 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  3. 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  4. generous grinds of black pepper
  5. a pinch of salt
  6. 2 medium zucchini
Instructions
  1. Preheat the broiler in your oven to high. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or non-stick foil.
  2. Mix the mayonnaise, parmesan and oregano together with a fork. Grind in some pepper and salt to taste (the parmesan can be salty, so go slow with the salt).
  3. Slice the zucchini diagonally into ¼ inch thick slices. Spread each slice with a thin layer of the mayonnaise mixture, making sure to spread to the edges and evenly.
  4. Cook the zucchini under the broiler for 1 -2 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and lightly golden.
  5. Serve immediately.
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Strawberries with Sweet Tea Dressing

Strawberries with Sweet Tea Dressing

Strawberries come into season when the beginnings of spring are arriving.  When it’s time air out the seersucker and the sandals and give the grill a good clean and make sure the big cooler is ready for weekends at the lake and beach.  And though we drink sweet tea all year, the mint is starting to grow and its time for great big glasses full of ice while sitting outside enjoying the weather before it gets too hot or the mosquitoes get too fierce.  It seems only naturally to take the first fruit of spring and combine it with a delicious dressing tinged with the flavors of the South’s favorite beverage.  Sweet, sweet strawberries and mint combine with the sweet and tangy dressing, set off with a hit of vinegar and emulsified to a nice creaminess with oil.  This salad is beautiful on its on, but looks pretty on butter lettuce leaves as well.  The strawberries can also be part of a sweet dish, served along side a cake or over ice cream.

Strawberries with Sweet Tea Dressing
Serves 8
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Ingredients
  1. ½ cup sugar
  2. ½ cup water
  3. 2 black tea bags
  4. a generous handful or fresh mint leaves
  5. 2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
  6. 6 Tablespoons canola oil
  7. 4 pints fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
Instructions
  1. Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan and cook until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat, add the teabags, cover the pan and leave to cool. When the syrup is cool, remove the tea bags.
  2. Place the sliced strawberries in a large bowl. Stack about 10 mint leaves on top of each other, roll them up like a cigar and slice into thin ribbons (this is called a chiffonade). Separate the ribbons and toss with the strawberries.
  3. Place 1/3 cup of the sweet tea syrup in a blender. Add about 5 mint leaves and the vinegar and blend until combined and the mint is beginning to break down. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the oil until you have a creamy dressing.
  4. Pour the dressing over the berries in the bowl and gently stir to coat. You may not want to use all the dressing. The berries just need to be lightly coated, not drowning.
  5. Serve immediately.
Notes
  1. The strawberries can be sliced ahead of time and the dressing can be made ahead, but do not combine until ready to serve.
  2. Leftover dressing can be used on other fruit or a green salad.
  3. Extra sweet tea syrup can be used as a base for sweet tea. Combined with water to taste, or as part of a brine, as in Sweet Tea Glazed Pork Chops.
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Strawberry Curd and Almond Cookies

Strawberry Curd and Almond Cookies Strawberry season was a bit slow to come this year, but I am now gorging myself on the in-season fruit and finding all sorts of ways to incorporate the ruby gems in my cooking.  And this is a new favorite.  It combines the flavor of beautiful local fruits and memories of England, and anything that can do that makes me happy. Lemon curd has always felt like a luxury food to me.  It was a fancy British import, sold in little jars and not readily available in Memphis.  In fact, when I first started travelling to England, I probably brought jars back for my mother and grandmother as little gifts.  Eventually I learned that lemon curd is pretty easy to make at home, and so much fresher and better, which led to the obvious experimentation with curds of other flavors.  And I think strawberry may be my favorite.  It’s a lovely pink color and bursts with strawberry flavor. Strawberry curd is wonderful spread on toast or good English muffins.  Or the full English, on a tender scone.  It makes a wonderful filling for a cake. I decided to pair it here with these delicate little almond cookies because it makes a lovely and interesting dessert.  I’ve scooped the curd into little 4 ounce Mason jars and placed it on a plate surrounded by cookies as a nifty little individual sweet.  It also works as a dip for a spring shower or brunch.  

Strawberry Curd and Almond Cookies
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Ingredients
  1. Strawberry Curd
  2. 8 ¼ ounces strawberries, hulled
  3. 1 ¼ cup sugar
  4. zest and juice of one small orange
  5. zest and juice of one medium lemon
  6. ½ cup (1 stick) butter, cubed and at room temperature
  7. 4 eggs
  8. Almond Cookies
  9. ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  10. ½ cup granulated sugar
  11. 1 large egg
  12. ½ cup almond meal (or very finely ground almonds)
  13. 1 ½ teaspoons pure almond extract
  14. 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
Instructions
  1. Strawberry Curd
  2. Place a wire mesh strainer over a medium bowl and set aside close to the stovetop. Puree the strawberries in a blender until very smooth.
  3. Pour the strawberry puree into a medium sauce pan and add the sugar, citrus zest and juice (about ¼ cup juice). Whisk to blend and add the butter pieces. Beat the eggs well in a small bowl, then whisk them into the strawberry mixture until combined. Place over medium heat and stir constantly until the butter is melted. (it’s best to switch to a heatproof spatula here to be able to scrape the sides and reach the edges of the pan). Continue cooking until the curd is thickened, about 6- 8 minutes., stirring constantly. Scrape the curd immediately into the strainer set over the bowl. Push the curd through the strainer to remove any cooked egg or lumps. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the surface of the curd and refrigerate until cold, at least two hours. Transfer to an airtight container. The curd will keep refrigerated up to a week.
  4. Makes 2 ½ cups
  5. Almond Cookies
  6. Preheat the oven to 400°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  7. Beat the butter and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until combined. Beat in the almond meal and almond extract, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the flour, scraping down the sides of the bowl frequently, until the dough comes together.
  8. Roll the dough into small balls, about the size of a pecan, and place about ½ inch apart on the prepared baking sheets. Lightly dampen your fingers and slightly flatten the cookies. Bake for 6 – 8 minutes, until the bottoms of the cookies are golden and the tops are firm. Remove the cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  9. Makes about 3 dozen
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Mardi Gras Slaw

Mardi Gras Slaw

Mardi Gras is a fun season for food.  Not only can you draw from the great canon of Louisiana cooking, you can play with the bright signature colors of purple, green and gold and be a little silly.  This slaw is simple but the multi-colored vegetables and the tangy dressing make it a special dish.  It is beautiful served beside or on top of a po’ boy, but is also a great starter or side with other favorites like Shrimp Creole or Red Beans and Rice or Grillades and Grits. But this slaw is also beautiful at a summer barbecue or picnic, long after Mardi Gras season has passed.

Mardi Gras Slaw

For the dressing:

1/3 cup creole mustard (I use Zatarain’s)

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup white sugar

1/3 cup vegetable oil

a couple of dashes of hot sauce

For the slaw:

½ head purple cabbage

½ head green cabbage

2 yellow bell peppers

For the dressing:

Blend all the ingredients together in a blender or in a small bowl with a whisk until the sugar is dissolved and the dressing is creamy.

For the Slaw:

Cut out the core of each cabbage half.  Slice the cabbage with the slicing blade of a food processor.  You’ll need to do this in batches.  Transfer the sliced cabbage to a very big bowl.  Remove the ribs and seeds from the peppers and finely dice.  Add to the cabbage in the bowl.  Use you clean hands to toss everything around until evenly distributed.  Discard any large cabbage pieces or remnants of hard core.

Give the dressing a last whisk to make sure it is creamy and pour it over the slaw.  Stir and toss to coat everything well.  I like to do this with clean hands as well.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours to allow the flavors to blend.  This is best served soon after it is made, but will keep for up to a day.

Serve 10 – 12

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Cauliflower Cheese Soup with Curried Cauliflower Crumbs

Cauliflower Cheese Soup with Curried Cauliflower Crumbs

Cauliflower Cheese is a very popular dish in England, one of its comfort foods.  Basically, it is cauliflower in a creamy cheese sauce.  But the first time I heard of cauliflower cheese, on the set menu at a restaurant during a high-school summer in England, I was a little worried it was actually some kind of strange British cheese.  I thought they might bring our some lumpy, bumpy, smelly cheese – an early on I always worried even the most innocuous sounding English food would contain unfamiliar animal parts.  I have since learned not to fear British food, and the combination of cauliflower and cheese is a solid one.  I love it in this creamy, simple soup.

This soup is hugely adaptable.  I love the interesting touch of the curried crumbs (and it is a way to use some of the extra cauliflower), but the array of topping possibilities is endless.  Try the crumbs with just salt and pepper, or any seasoning you prefer.  Crispy pieces of bacon or pancetta, toasted croutons, a shower of chopped herbs, a drizzle of olive oil, chopped toasted walnuts or some extra shredded cheddar.  Use your imagination and what you have to hand.

Cauliflower Cheese Soup with Curried Cauliflower Crumbs

2 leeks, white and lightest green parts (about 8 ounces)

¼ cup butter

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups chicken broth

½ cup heavy cream

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

6 – 7 sprigs fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

1 pound cauliflower (about ½ head)

14 ounces white cheddar cheese, grated

For the Crumbs:

½ head cauliflower

2 Tablespoons olive oil

¼ teaspoon curry powder

Slice the leeks into thin rings, then rinse well under cold running water.  Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, then add the leeks and cook until soft and wilted, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook one more minute.  Sprinkle over the flour and cook until the flour is thoroughly combined with the leeks.  Add the broth, cream and 2 cups of water.  Stir until the soup begins to thicken, then add the nutmeg, bay leaves and thyme (I tie the sprigs together with a small piece of twine to make them easier to remove later).  Bring the soup to a low bubble, but do not boil.

Cut the cauliflower into small pieces, removing any very hard center stem.  Drop the pieces into the soup, reduce the heat to low and cover the pot.  Let the soup simmer for 20 – 25 minutes or until the cauliflower is soft.  Puree the soup with an immersion blender or vary carefully in batches in a blender.  When the soup is smooth, stir in the grated cheddar by handfuls, melting each handful before the adding the next one.  Season well with salt.  The salt can be cooled, covered and refrigerated at this point for several hours.  Reheat gently; do not boil.

Serve sprinkled with the curried crumbs.

Serves 4

For the Crumbs:

Use a large knife to shave the knobbly top of the cauliflower to produce ½ cup of crumbs.  Remove any larger pieces of stem.  It should look like fine bread crumbs.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat, then add the cauliflower crumbs.  Stir constantly until the crumbs are brown and toasted,  Sprinkle over the curry powder and a pinch of salt and stir to coat.  Toast a few seconds longer until brown and fragrant.  Remove the crumbs to paper towel lined plate with a slotted spoon.

Sprinkle the crumbs over the soup to serve.

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