The key to a better cauliflower soup: Don’t skimp on the garnish

Joe Yonan

If you’ve ever eaten a pureed soup and, after the first dozen bites or so, found yourself getting a little bored, you need to learn the following trick: Hold out some of your ingredients, before or after cooking, and add them back in the form of a garnish right before serving. It makes all the difference in the world, giving enough textural variation to keep things interesting as you drain the bowl.

The garnish ingredients can be raw or cooked, as long as they’re pleasant enough to eat.

In the case of this recipe from Christopher Kimball’s new cookbook Cookish, the garnish consists of some of the almonds that you use to start off the dish by frying in oil and harissa spice blend (rather than the paste). The almonds offer richness and body to this cauliflower soup, making it creamy without cream. The spice blend gives a mild kick of heat, but don’t fret: If you can’t easily find it, you can easily sub in good old chili powder — or whatever other spice or blend you might have around.

After you reserve half the spiced almonds, you add the cauliflower and some onion, simmering the mixture in water until everything is soft before pureeing it smooth.

A little fresh lemon juice brightens the soup, and on top go those nuts — plus some chopped cilantro.

It’s such a smart combination that you can easily think of it as a blueprint, subbing out elements at will and to your taste all fall and all winter long. Just don’t forget that garnish.

Harissa-spiced cauliflower almond soup. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

Ingredients

A quarter cup extra-virgin olive oil

Two cups sliced almonds

Two tablespoons harissa spice blend (may substitute chili powder)

One head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into one-inch chunks

One medium yellow onion, chopped

Six cups water, plus more as needed

Two teaspoons fine sea salt

Two tablespoons fresh lemon juice

One cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Steps

In a large pot over medium heat, combine the oil, almonds and harissa and cook, stirring, until the oil bubbles, about three minutes. Scoop out and reserve one cup of the mixture.

Add the cauliflower and onion to the pot. Cook, stirring, until the cauliflower begins to soften, about 10 minutes.

Add the water and salt, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat until the mixture is simmering. Cover and cook until the cauliflower is soft, 15 to 20 minutes.

Using a blender, puree the soup in batches until smooth, then return it to the pot. (Or, if you have an immersion blender, puree right in the pot.) If the soup is too thick for your liking, add water, one quarter cup at a time, until your desired consistency is reached. Stir in the lemon juice and reheat. Taste, and add more salt and/or lemon juice, if needed.

Ladle the soup into bowls, top with the cilantro and the reserved almond mixture, and serve hot.

Nutrition | Calories: 606; Total Fat: 51g; Saturated Fat: 5g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 835mg; Carbohydrates: 29g; Dietary Fibre: 14g; Sugar: 10g; Protein: 21g.