Roasted Cauliflower and Red Lentil Soup
We are deep in the throws of an aggressive allergy season here in South Texas, and I keep reaching for bowls of healing soups to soothe my congested, sneezy soul. This one is particularly therapeutic- it's packed with flavor and loaded with nutritional value. This warming, Indian inspired bowl of goodness always makes me feel better when I'm under the weather, or just craving something hot and soothing. Maybe you're sick of seeing cauliflower everywhere these days, but I can't get enough of this popular, winter veggie. Along with it's cruciferous cousins (kale, broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, etc.), cauliflower is loaded with health boosting fiber, antioxidants, and B-vitamins. It's delicious and versatile- I especially love it roasted until charred and crisp. Here, I've taken it another step further and added the toasty, tender cauli florets to a delicious puréed soup. Pre-roasting the cauliflower may seem like an unnecessary step, but it adds so much concentrated flavor! It's hard not to eat half the sheet pan before adding it to the pot... I always sneak more than a few bites. In fact, if you don't want to make a soup, the recipe for roasting the cauliflower makes for a killer side dish (or see my recipe for Spice Roasted Cauliflower). Red lentils provide protein, creaminess, and color. They are one of my favorite ingredients to work with when I'm pressed for time- they cook up in a quick 25 minutes. The lentils partner beautifully with the cauliflower and spices to create a hearty, healthy soup- somewhat like a looser, smoother dal. If you'd like to keep this thick and chunky (more of a stew), go for it! But I love how creamy the soup gets once blended. I like to leave a little uniform texture, but if you want a more velvety consistency, try blending this in batches in a high power blender. Also, if you're trying to eat less dairy, garnish the soup with a little coconut cream (the thick part at the top of a full-fat can of coconut milk) cut with lemon or lime juice in place for the yogurt. This soup is CAULing your name- try it and you'll see why it's a cocina favorite!
prep time: 15 min. cook time: ~1 hr. serves: 8-10
1 extra large head of cauliflower, broken down into florets (some stems and leaves fine)
extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp turmeric, divided
1 tsp coriander, divided
1 tsp cumin, divided
1 tsp regular or smoked sweet paprika, divided
1/2 red onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 tbsp garlic, minced (2-4 cloves)
1-2” piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 jalapeño pepper, minced (optional)
3/4 cup red lentils
8 cups vegetable or chicken stock
cilantro leaves, lemon wedges, and/or Greek yogurt
Preheat the oven to 425°. Place the cauliflower on a large rimmed sheet pan and drizzle with about 2 tbsp of olive oil. Season with 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp each of the turmeric, coriander, cumin, and paprika and toss with your hands to coat. Spread the cauliflower in an even layer and roast in the oven 25-30 minutes, until the cauliflower is brown and crisp but tender on the inside.
Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large dutch oven or heavy soup pot set over medium heat. Add the carrot and onion and sweat 3-5 minutes, until they are beginning to soften. Add the garlic, ginger, jalapeño (if using), remaining turmeric, cumin, coriander, and paprika (1/2 tsp of each), and the lentils and stir to combine. Cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Pour in the stock, add the roasted cauliflower to the pot, and season with 2 tsp salt and 1 tsp black pepper. Give the soup a big stir, bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer uncovered for 25 minutes or so, until the lentils are fully cooked and the vegetables are tender.
Remove the soup from the heat and using an immersion blender, purée the mixture until it’s almost completely smooth (no big chunks, but a little coarse texture is fine). Alternately, you can transfer the soup to a blender or food processor to purée in batches if you prefer an even smoother consistency. Serve the hot soup in bowls garnished with cilantro leaves, a squeeze of lemon, and a dollop of yogurt if desired. *This is great made a day or two ahead and will keep up to 3 months in the freezer.