Roasted Spring Vegetable Soup
Antioxidant-rich cauliflower lends a potato quality to this creamy spring vegetable soup, while fennel and leeks add extra layers of flavor.
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The first thing I thought of when I read Chef Jeannette’s recipe for Roasted Spring Vegetable Soup was that it reminded me of my juicing recipes. As many of you know, I am hardly a skilled chef, so my admiration for Jeanette’s recipes is heightened by the fact that I can actually make them—and if I can make them, believe me, anyone can.
What I particularly like about this spring vegetable soup—the very thing that reminded me of how I make juice—is the sheer whimsicality of it. The two things I excel at making — coffee and juices — I learned to do by pure experimentation. I’d go to the grocery store and think, “This vegetable looks good, this one looks like it might blend well, this one has the right color — OK, let’s try it!” And over the years I’ve developed some awesome ways of putting together whatever happens to be available in the produce section. And this soup works in much the same way.
How whimsical—how random—how brilliant—is it to combine cauliflower, fennel, and leeks? I mean, really? But when you picture those three together, they suddenly make sense, both in terms of texture and color. The colors blend. The flavors mesh. Unlikely a combo as it might seem, it all comes together in this absolutely delicious Spring Vegetable Soup that whispers “fresh and light” with every spoonful.
Roasting the veggies first deepens the rich flavor of this otherwise light soup. The cauliflower keeps the purée both low-cal and low-carb — a double winner in my book. For those who aren’t averse to using foods from humanely raised and healthy animals, you can enrich this soup with grass-fed butter, organic milk, and free-range chicken. For those who want to keep things plant-based, go to town with extra-virgin olive oil, coconut milk, and vegetable broth. Either way, this soup is a winner!
Featured Spring Vegetable: Cauliflower
I never had much of a taste for cauliflower until the 1990s, when Dr. Arthur Agatston came out with The South Beach Diet and began the craze of substituting cauliflower for starchy, carby potatoes.
In the years since cauliflower has only expanded its culinary resume. Chefs everywhere are roasting it, browning it, and serving it in all kinds of exotic spicy combos. The once lowly cauliflower has become a princess in the land of edible plants—a delectable side dish served in many great restaurants around the globe.
Cauliflower is a member of the über-healthy Brassica family of vegetables, and it contains many of the compounds (such as indoles) that have given this family its rightly deserved reputation as a potent cancer fighter. Plus, cauliflower contains sulforaphane, which was first identified in broccoli sprouts by scientists at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. It’s one of a class of plant chemicals called isothiocyanates, a potent antioxidant and stimulator of natural detoxifying enzymes in the body.
On the downside, cauliflower also contains purines, a feature it shares with a number of very healthy foods including sardines and spinach. Usually, that’s not a problem—we break down purines into uric acid and get rid of it. But in some people, this mechanism doesn’t work exactly right, which leads to uric acid buildup and painful episodes of gout. Such patients are advised to limit foods that contain purines, including cauliflower.
How Does Cauliflower Fight Cancer?
Within minutes of being eaten, the sulforaphane in cauliflower enters the bloodstream and turbocharges the body’s antioxidant defense systems. When it reaches the cells, it activates phase-2 detoxification enzymes in the liver, which then “disarm” carcinogenic molecules and help remove them from the cells. Sulforaphanes, along with other isothiocyanates and indoles, are believed to be responsible for the lowered risk of cancer associated with the consumption of cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, kale, cabbage, and, of course, broccoli and broccoli sprouts.
All that—and cauliflower still makes the best “faux mashed potatoes” you can imagine!
Notes from the Clean Food Coach
Leeks are notorious for hiding sand and grit inside their folds, so be sure to clean them carefully before using them. I find it easiest to chop them first and immerse them in a bowl of water to rinse well. If they’re very sandy, you may need to separate the layers while rinsing.
If you don’t have an immersion wand, carefully purée the soup in batches in a blender. Vent the lid a bit to prevent steam burns.
- 1 large head cauliflower, cored and cut into florets
- 1 large fennel bulb, fronds removed and roughly chopped
- 1 large leek, root and tough greens removed, halved lengthwise and roughly chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 Tbs. olive oil
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1 Tbs. grass-fed butter or olive oil
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 cup milk of choice (cow, unflavored almond or low-fat coconut all work well)
- Zest of 1 lemon, and lemon wedges, optional for serving
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Line roasting pan with parchment, and set aside.
- Combine cauliflower, fennel, leek, and garlic in large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Toss gently to coat, and arrange vegetables in prepared roasting pan.
- Roast vegetables 20–25 minutes, until beginning to caramelize and soften, turning gently at 10 minutes and watching closely after 20 minutes to prevent scorching.
- Heat butter (or olive oil) in soup pot over medium heat, and carefully transfer roasted vegetables into pot. Pour broth over veggies, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 15–20 minutes, until vegetables are tender.
- Using immersion blender, purée soup to desired texture. Stir in milk to cream, and thin to taste. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and simmer 5 minutes more. Stir in lemon zest and serve bowls of hot soup with lemon wedges, if using.
Related: Masala Cauliflower Soup
- Calories 140
- Carbohydrate Content 17 g
- Cholesterol Content 10 mg
- Fat Content 6 g
- Fiber Content 4 g
- Protein Content 8 g
- Saturated Fat Content 2.5 g
- Sodium Content 150 mg
- Sugar Content 7 g