creamy cauliflower soup with chickpea crackers.jpg

Warm, layered, and simple to put together, this meal is perfect for winter evenings, and versatile, too. The blood orange oil from The Tree & Vine on Union Avenue was a gift from a friend, and while it adds a touch of complexity to this otherwise traditionally comforting soup, it's not essential. Feel free to use any good olive oil you have on hand--or even melted unrefined coconut oil--for a milder fruity note (or if you're really craving straight-ahead comfort, substitute melted nondairy butter). Meanwhile, these crackers are addictive when crunchy, but they also make great savory little flatbreads: just roll them into small rounds and reduce the baking time a bit to leave them soft and pliable.

Black Pepper Chickpea Crackers

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adapted from Everyday Food, March 2011

1 15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1/2 tsp prepared yellow mustard

1 1/2 tsp ground coriander

3/4 tsp finely ground sea salt (or kosher salt), plus more for sprinkling

3/4 tsp freshly cracked pepper

1 cup whole white wheat flour (we use King Arthur, or use all-purpose [see Note])

1/2 cup nutritional yeast (we get ours from the bulk bins at the co-op--if you've never tried nutritional yeast before, this is a great way to find out that it's convenient, flavorful, and versatile)

1/4 cup oil (we used peanut)

Preheat oven to 350.

In a food processor, process the chickpeas, mustard, coriander, salt, and pepper until the chickpeas are finely chopped. Add flour, nutritional yeast, and peanut oil, and process until combined. 

With the motor running, add 5 TBSP cold water, one TBSP at a time, until a ball of dough forms. [Note: if you use all-purpose flour instead of wheat, you likely won't need as much water. Just add water 1 TBSP at a time until your dough forms.] Divide the dough in two and roll out each ball to 1/8-inch thickness. Use a pizza cutter to cut the crackers into 1x3-inch strips.

Place the crackers on a parchment-lined baking sheet, sprinkle the tops with coarse salt, and bake for 25-30 min. (This will make two very large batches, so if you have the equipment, you can bake them on two racks simultaneously. We did ours in batches.)

Cauliflower Soup with Smoky, Blood Orange-Scented Oyster Mushrooms

serves 4, adapted from Eric Ripert's A Return to Cooking

about 8 oyster mushrooms, very tender caps only, 4 oz total, cut into 1/2-inch dice

1 TBSP blood orange oil

1 tsp liquid smoke

5 cups water

1 cube no-salt-added (or low-salt) vegetable bouillon

1 large head cauliflower, trimmed and roughly chopped

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup hemp seeds (or cashews, if you have a powerful blender)

1 1/2 cups water

4 small sprigs fresh dill, stems discarded

finely ground sea salt and white pepper

Stir together the chopped mushrooms, orange oil, and liquid smoke. Set aside.

In a large pot, heat the 5 cups water together with the bouillon. When it has dissolved, add the cauliflower, reduce heat, and simmer until very tender, 25-30 min.

While the cauliflower cooks, blend together very thoroughly the 1/4 cup oil, hemp seeds, and 1 1/2 cups water. (Alternately, you can substitute the hemp seeds/cashews and water combination for 1 1/2 cups of any nondairy milk you have on hand--it won't be as rich, but it will still be tasty).

When the cauliflower is cooked, use an immersion blender to puree the soup. Add dill, season to taste with salt and white pepper, and return the pot to low heat. Stir in the cream mixture and adjust seasoning as needed.

While the soup gently reheats, sear the mushrooms--which should have absorbed all the oil and liquid smoke--just until tender, a minute or so. (We used a countertop electric grill for easy double-sided searing.)

To serve, add a couple spoonfuls of mushrooms to the bottom of a bowl and ladle the soup on top. Serve immediately.