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Cauliflower Makes a Smart Soup

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Simmons is the author of the "Fresh & Fast" cookbook (Chapters Publishing, 1996)

Mark Twain called cauliflower “cabbage with a college education.”

Cauliflower is delicious raw. Crunchy, with a mild, earthy taste, it is good chopped and added to mixed green salads or separated into chunky florets and served as a snack dipped in coarse salt or honey-mustard dressing.

Cooked cauliflower, on the other hand, has an almost buttery texture. I like it best separated into clusters of florets and steamed. Once steamed, it can be used in a variety of ways. It’s good tossed with cooked pasta and covered with a sauce of olive oil, crushed red pepper and slivered garlic. Sometimes I make a dressing of olive oil, red wine vinegar and grated orange rind and sprinkle it over the hot cooked cauliflower. This warm salad is especially delicious served with grilled salmon.

Another favorite preparation is to dip the cooked cauliflower in beaten egg, roll it in a mixture of fine dry bread crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese and then fry it in a shallow layer of hot olive oil until browned and crisp.

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Cauliflower soup is also delicious. This version, made with sweet potatoes and seasoned with a little curry powder, is easy to prepare. It makes a very satisfying meal served with a basket of crusty warm bread and a salad of mixed greens.

For dessert, serve ripe pears accompanied by wedges of blue-veined cheese. If you like sharp cheese, look for an English Stilton, Italian Gorgonzola or French Roquefort. If you prefer a more mild-tasting blue cheese, look for Saga cheese from Denmark.

CAULIFLOWER AND SWEET POTATO SOUP

2 tablespoons olive oil

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2 cups chopped onions

2 to 3 teaspoons curry powder

2 cups peeled, cubed sweet potatoes (2 medium or 1 large)

3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

3/4 pound carrots, cut in 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 pound parsnips, cut in 1/4-inch cubes

2 cups small cauliflower florets

1 cup milk (or as needed to thin soup)

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Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Heat oil in large, wide saucepan. Add onion and cook over low heat, stirring, until onions are very tender and golden, about 10 minutes. Add curry and cook 1 minute. Add potatoes and broth and bring to boil. Cover and cook over low heat until potatoes are very tender, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly.

Puree onions and potatoes in food processor and return to saucepan. Add carrots and parsnips. Cover and cook until almost tender, about 20 minutes.

Add cauliflower and cook 10 minutes or until tender. Stir in milk. Do not boil or soup will curdle. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve sprinkled with cilantro.

6 servings. Each serving:

185 calories; 381 mg sodium; 3 mg cholesterol; 6 grams fat; 29 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 1.79 grams fiber.

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