Following nature’s lead when it comes to fresh produce can be hard in winter. The gray days seem to leave us with grayed-out offerings—mottled turnips and dirt-streaked carrots, potatoes for miles and bitter, tough herbs. Leaning into these grounding foods can shift our energy toward heavying, but not the kind that comes from indulgence and excess. Rather, we’re invited to let our bodies fill their containers in a deeply satisfying way—sort of like the feeling of ladling yourself another bowl of soup, just because there’s not much else to do on the already-pitch-black night at dinnertime. Oh, and probably it tastes pretty good.
Making soup is a deeply comforting affair. It requires an intimacy with nuance as pinches and dribbles of flavors are added until they’re just right; it requires a kind of patient longing that we simply don’t have time for during the rest of the year. I try to find ways to cultivate soup-vibes no matter what the calendar says, but now, in January, it’s a delight to feel normal in pulling out the Le Cruset and big spoon on a Saturday morning. What did you do this weekend? people will ask. I made soup is a perfectly acceptable answer, greeted by a knowing, perhaps envious or perhaps complicit, nod.
The secret to achieving a balanced but still creamy soup, I’ve found, is relying on alliums and brightening flavors to contrast blander wintertime produce. Here, the leeks are almost more important than the cauliflower-and-bean base, but the slow cook time removes their usual bite. I went heavy on the herbs here, so start with fewer and add more until your palate is satisfied. You’ll know when it’s enough—it will keep you coming back for more.
Creamy Cauliflower and Leek Soup
- 4 garlic cloves chopped
- 1/2 tablespoon brown mustard seeds
- 1 tablespoon whole fennel seed
- 1 tablespoon whole coriander seed
- 1 inch fresh ginger chopped
- 2 large leeks white and green parts
- 1 medium head cauliflower
- 1-1/2 cups cooked gigante beans
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/2 cup each fresh parsley and dill chopped and stems removed
- 2 springs fresh oregano chopped
- Maldon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Avocado slices
- Combine the garlic, mustard seed, fennel, coriander, ginger, and 1 tablespoon of water in a large dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Simmer for 5 minutes or until the spices are fragrant but not burning.
- Chop the leeks into 1/2-inch rounds and add to the pot. Cook for 5 minutes to soften. The garlic should also be browning but not burning.
- Add the cauliflower and 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for 20 minutes, or until the cauliflower is soft. Ten minutes before the end, add the beans.
- Remove the pot from heat. Add the nutritional yeast, and stir to combine. Blend with an immersion blender, or wait until cooled to room temperature to blend in a blender or food processor.
- Divide soup into bowls. Add generous tablespoons of the fresh herbs and salt and pepper to taste.