It's cauliflower and cashews, not cream, that make this soup rich, flavorful
What if you could have a creamy bowl of delicious soup that's full of vegetables and flavor but without any guilt or heavy, cream-laden extra calories? What if it was actually good for you, low in calories, and tasted great? If this sounds too good to be true, be sure to try this recipe for Creamy Cauliflower Wild Rice Soup.
The cauliflower of my childhood was usually steamed or boiled until it was soft, unless it was served raw on a veggie and dip tray. It was often part of a vegetable "medley" alongside broccoli and carrots next to a protein in restaurants.
Twenty years ago, cauliflower has no place of prestige in the vegetable hierarchy.
But that's no longer the case -- these days, cauliflower is a trendy, popular vegetable. Wanting to add more vegetables to one's diet is definitely one reason for cauliflower's rise in popularity, but dietary preferences, such as keto and paleo, have also contributed.
I remember when, years ago, a friend mentioned she had started substituting cauliflower when making mashed potatoes, and that it tasted good. My initial reaction was disbelief, but after trying it, I was a believer. Now, instead of being just a mushy afterthought in a vegetable medley, cauliflower can be a main course or a side dish. It's taken on a starring role in pizza crust, baking mixes, gnocchi, on restaurant menus in a "Buffalo" style, which is one of my personal favorites, and of course, this Creamy Cauliflower Wild Rice Soup.
While the main ingredient of this soup may be cauliflower, the recipe is not built around that alone. Supporting ingredients include an array of vegetables, plus a few ingredients that were new to me.
One of those ingredients was raw cashews. I have used them in Asian recipes, but I have never seen a recipe requiring you to soak the cashews and blend them into a sauce. My vegan daughter was quick to point out that cashews, along with other nuts, are often used in place of dairy in recipes. Almond and cashew, as well as other ingredients like oatmeal, are all used for varieties of nondairy milk now available in grocery stores.
Soaked cashews can be processed with liquid in a blender to yield a sauce similar to cream. For this recipe, it is important to process the mixture long enough to eliminate all cashew bits, so the end result is smooth.
In this case, cashews are combined with cooked cauliflower, nutritional yeast, and water to make a creamy, almost Alfredo-looking sauce.
Nutritional yeast was the other new-to-me ingredient, but of course my vegan daughter had used it. She explained those who prefer a vegan diet use this to add flavor similar to Parmesan cheese.
I will be honest, when I first opened the container it looked like flaky fish food, but my daughter swears by this unusual ingredient. So, what is it?
According to SpruceEats.com, nutritional yeast is inactive yeast with an umami flavor, and is an inactivated form of yeast commonly used to leaven bread. It is nondairy, so also an alternative for those who cannot tolerate dairy to add "cheesy" flavor to their meals.
I know it is already near the end of January, and while many joined Veganuary -- not eating any animal products during January -- it is not too late to try this wonderful soup that easily fits into those dietary requirements. Or just try it because it is healthy and delicious.
One recipe calls for 2/3 cup of cashews and 1/4 cup nutritional yeast, which is roughly 600 calories for the entire recipe. With the exception of the olive oil, most other ingredients are vegetables and broth, making this a low-calorie, nutritious dish as well.
If that is not enough to entice you, I can tell you my omnivore husband eats this by the bowlful and doesn't miss meat at all. If a meatless meal is a deal-breaker for you and your family, feel free to add some diced chicken, or perhaps a little bit of smoked sausage, for a tasty twist. Try a bowl on the next cold day -- I promise it will be very satisfying.
• Penny Kazmier, a wife and mother of four from South Barrington, won the 2011 Daily Herald Cook of the Week Challenge.