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Paul Bertolli's Cauliflower Soup

Despite the numerous baked goods and desserts I post here, Rob and I usually eat healthy food.  Admittedly, I find pies and crumble more photogenic than most salads or main dishes, but it is a new year and I've been trying to eat (and cook) healthier.  

Nevermind that I am eating ice cream right now.

I find that eating healthier is much tougher to do in the winter.  I am bored of most squash and while I love simple roasted vegetables, I sometimes crave something different. One option is to turn veggies into healthy "fries", such as these Turnip Fries from Saveur that were awesome.  Another option is soup - an easy and tasty alternative - but many simple vegetable soups are bland.  Not this one.

I read about this on Food52 (also the source of my favorite kale salad).  Paul Bertolli was the head chef at Chez Panisse for ten years and he certainly does know what to do with a vegetable.  I was suspicious of a soup with only cauliflower, an onion and extra-virgin olive oil as "real" ingredients, but this soup is dynamite.  It tastes like it has cream in it and comes together in a snap.  Rob could only hunt down yellow/orange cauliflower when I sent him to the store, but obviously any color of cauliflower will work (I'd love to see a lavender version of this with purple cauliflower). 

Paul Bertolli's Cauliflower Soup
Yield = 8 servings
Recipe from Food52 

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion (6 ounces), sliced thin
1 head cauliflower (about 1-1/2 pounds), broken into florets
Salt, to taste
5 1/2 cups water (divided) 
Extra virgin olive oil, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Warm the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Sweat the onion in the olive oil over low heat without letting it brown for 15 minutes.

Add the cauliflower, salt to taste, and 1/2 cup water. Raise the heat slightly, cover the pot tightly and stew the cauliflower for 15 to 18 minutes, or until tender. Then add another 4 1/2 cups hot water, bring to a low simmer and cook an additional 20 minutes uncovered.

Using an immersion blender or a regular blender (working in batches), purée the soup to a very smooth, creamy consistency. Let the soup stand for 20 minutes. In this time it will thicken slightly.

Thin the soup with 1/2 cup hot water. Reheat the soup. Serve hot, drizzled with a thin stream of extra-virgin olive oil and freshly ground black pepper.

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Reader Comments (7)

Omg, was going to make this soup this week as well — have had it bookmarked since it was posted — and ended up making a cauliflower-apple purée that will eventually turn into a soup. It's a Sally Schneider recipe but what I didn't like about the recipe is that it was made with a quart of milk. Your soup is much healthier and from the sound of it, it seems the milk is unnecessary. Must pick up more cauliflower soon! That yellow variety is so exotic. Fun!

January 16, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterali

Shut the front door. This soup looks super easy and a great candidate for my new immersion blender. Sad that I already made my soup for the week, but this is next on my list!

January 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

So funny, Ali! This cauliflower apple purée sounds delicious... and I do think you'll enjoy this soup. So simple and very healthy! I do like the yellow variety and I would love to see it done in purple!

Julie, definitely a great candidate for an immersion blender. That is how I made this and I need to revise the recipe to say that - thanks for the reminder! Let me know what you think.

January 16, 2012 | Registered CommenterDarcy Eden

no cream? no milk? no butter? cauliflower and onions and a pinch of salt and pepper? it sounds like magic. I will have to make this for Zach. He loves anything with cauliflower. Not sure i'll be able to hunt down the orange or purple variety, but I'm sure it will still be yummy. Great photos!

January 17, 2012 | Unregistered Commentertalley

Talley, I was incredulous about the absence of butter, milk, cream, etc. How could this possibly taste good? But, it does. I hope Zach enjoys it! I actually think the standard white cauliflower will be prettiest - I just like the idea of purple!

January 18, 2012 | Registered CommenterDarcy Eden

This is really healthy. I love soups and vegetables. Putting them in one dish is just a piece of heaven for me. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

January 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames Hardman

Made this this week and it was awesome. Healthy, cheap, easy, AND something I can make for my vegetarian friends! (I'm the opposite of a vegetarian.) We used it as a side with roasted salmon- I love cauliflower and salmon together. Thanks for posting this!

January 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

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