Romanesco Cauliflower Soup Dressed with Za’atar

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Late last year…December to be exact….I was pushing my cart through Whole Foods shopping for a photo shoot. There is always a sense of urgency about this type of grocery store foray…time is of the essence…the quicker I get this done, and done well, the sooner I can be finished for the day….when out of the corner of my eye, while rolling out of produce toward seafood, I saw a display of stunning chartreuse Romanesco Cauliflowers. The brakes went on…I backed up…I was once again entranced by a vegetable! Such moments have often played out while I am shopping for one thing when I totally become obsessed by another thing…usually as in this case the exotic, the beautiful and the artful.

Looking more like an exotic creature of the sea than of terra firma these cauliflowers must make all others jealous. I call them the Cinderella of Cauliflowers!

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 I usually shy away from soups with lots of cream but for this soup just a splash was perfect.

Roasted Romanesco with garlic clove, shallots & olive oil to soften & bring out the flavor.

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I topped our bowls of soup off with another recent culinary love, Za’atar. This Middle Eastern spice mix is getting added to everything I cook these days. This little obsession began a few months ago while eating at one of my favorite Nashville restaurants, Epice. Among other dishes they add it to little bowls of dipping oil for the bread they serve. Then my friend Nancy Vienneau served roasted head of cauliflower with a generous dusting of Za’atar this past New Year’s Eve. Two delicious experiences with Za’atar in one month!

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Have you ever tasted Za’atar? It is at times a spice and a condiment. An earthy mixture of sumac berries, marjoram, thyme, basil, oregano, white sesame seeds & crunchy sea salt that is equally good smeared on a chicken or vegetables to roast. You can easily find it at most import groceries or, as I did, on-line.

A light sprinkle of Za’atar  & Gruyere Cheese…..

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Are you drawn to foods you have never cooked before? The exotic? Do you ever become obsessed with a comestible? What do you think this says about me…or you?

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Romanesco Cauliflower Dressed with Za'atar

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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Ingredients:

  • 1 head of Romanesco Cauliflower (or any other Cauliflower will be fine), cut into florets
  • 6 shallots, peeled & cut into pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • Freshly ground black pepper & sea salt flakes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup cream or half & half
  • 2 Tbsp Za’atar (divided)
  • Shredded Gruyere Cheese for garnish

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place the cauliflower florets, shallot pieces & garlic cloves on a large baking sheet pan.. Drizzle with olive oil & toss to coat. Sprinkle with black pepper & sea salt.
  3. Roast for 15 minutes or until florets are softened, but not browned. Remove pan from oven.
  4. Add roasted vegetables along with the chicken stock to a pot. Cook over medium high heat until vegetables are softened. Remove pan from heat & let mixture cool for about 20 minutes.
  5. Working in batches, puree soup in a blender or food processor until smooth. Put pureed mixture back into pan and reheat on low right before serving.
  6. Stir in 1 Tbsp of the  Za’atar while reheating soup.
  7. Add cream right before serving. Stir well. Remove from heat.
  8. To serve garnish each bowl with a light sprinkling of the remaining Za’atar & shredded Gruyere.

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