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This silken soup has the rich flavor of a classic, indulgent, cheesy fondue but with none of the guilt. The secret here is to cook the cauliflower until it is very tender and then puree it until smooth and fluffy. The method yields what appears to be a cream-based soup, but which is, in fact, made up almost entirely of good-for-you vegetables and fat-free milk.
Serves 8


~ 2 pounds cauliflower, trimmed
~ Olive oil spray
~ 1 teaspoon sugar
~ Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
~ 1/2 small leek, sliced (1 cup)
~ 2 cups skim milk
~ 2 cups Chicken Stock or low-sodium broth
~ 1 teaspoon dry mustard
~ 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
~ 2 ounces Gruyere cheese, finely grated (about 1 loosely packed cup)
~ Parsley Oil (below), for serving


Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Chop the cauliflower into enough small florets and stems to equal 2 cups. Coarsely chop the remaining cauliflower and set it aside in a separate bowl. Spray the 2 cups of cauliflower one or two times with olive oil. Add the sugar and a pinch each of the salt and white pepper. Toss the cauliflower with a fork to coat it with the oil and seasonings. Transfer it to a baking dish and spread the cauliflower in a single layer. Bake, stirring once or twice, until the cauliflower is light golden brown, about 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, spray a large saucepan with olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add the leek and cook, stirring, until softened and not at all brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the coarsely chopped cauliflower, the milk, stock, dry mustard, nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon white pepper and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool slightly. Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth and creamy, working in batches if necessary. Return the soup to a clean saucepan and reheat it over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until it simmers lightly. Add the Gruyere and stir until it has melted. Remove the pan from the heat.
Ladle the soup into warm bowls. Top each with caramelized cauliflower and drizzle with a little parsley oil. Serve hot.

Herb oils add striking color and delicious herbal essence to many dishes. The method of blanching the herbs, shocking them in ice water, and squeezing out all excess moisture ensures that the oil is very vibrant and flavorful.
Makes 1/2 cup

~ 1½ cups packed fresh herbs such as basil or Italian parsley leaves, dill sprigs, or chives
~ 1/2 cup grapeseed oil
~ Pinch of kosher salt

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil; prepare a bowl full of ice water. Plunge the herb leaves or sprigs into the boiling water for 10 seconds and then immediately transfer them to the ice water bath for 2 minutes to stop the cooking. Remove the herbs from the ice water and place them in a clean kitchen towel. Use your hands to squeeze out as much moisture from the herbs as possible.

Coarsely chop the herbs and place them in a blender. Add the oil and salt and blend on high for 1 minute. Place a strainer lined with a double layer of cheesecloth or a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl. Strain the oil, pressing lightly to extract more from the herbs; let it stand until all the oil has passed through the strainer. Discard the solids.

The herb oil can be refrigerated for up to 4 days. Do not heat the oil, as this will destroy its delicate flavor and bright green color.

Recipes from Golden Door Cooks At Home: Favorite Recipes from the Celebrated Spa
by Dean Rucker with Marah Stets (Clarkson Potter, April 2009, $40.00/ Hardcover)


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