A close friend, and one time frequent dinner guest – before she callously moved away – came to dinner last night. This presented a bit of a challenge, since while i can churn out one hell of a vegetarian meal, skipping the eggs and dairy was entirely new. What, no mushroom cream sauce? I can’t use Parmesan everything?
I settled on three courses (with bread and cocktails, of course): A cauliflower soup, a simple chopped salad, and tortellini stuffed with mushrooms, herbs, and breadcrumbs. What I discovered? Cooking without butter is hard. It’s such a crutch, and without it most components needed a lot more seasoning, and (in general) more acid in order to shine. But textures … textures came out beautifully. And in the end, it was really quite a delicious meal.
Vegan Cauliflower Soup
1 medium head cauliflower, some florets reserved for garnish
1 medium russet potato or other starchy potato, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces
1 rib celery
1 small carrot peeled
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp whole peppercorns
Up to 1/4 cup seasoned vinegar/chili vinegar
Salt to taste
Break the cauliflower into florets, reserving some smaller ones for garnish. Place cauliflower and potato pieces in a pressure cooker or large stock pot with peppercorns, garlic, carrot and celery whole. Add water 1/3 of the way to the top. Cover, and bring to pressure. Cook 20-25 minutes on the second ring. Allow pressure to release naturally. Remove celery and carrot and discard. With a slotted spoon transfer solids to a blender. Add enough liquid from the pot to begin puree. Add additional liquid to achieve desired consistency and puree until smooth. Taste, and add vinegar & salt to taste. I ended up adding almost a 1/4 cup of hatch green chili infused white wine vinegar to ~1 qt of product. To serve, ladle into a bowl, top with some fried cauliflower bits, rough chopped pistachios, and pickled dried cherries. Sprinkle with sumac.
For the pickled cherries:
1/4 cup chili vinegar
1/4 cup dried sour cherries
1 tbsp white sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
Add all ingredients to a microwave save bowl, heat for 2 mins on high. Set aside and allow to rest and flavors to combine for 30 mins. Drain, chop, and use as desired.