Cauliflower and Brown Ale Soup


Aaron and I just returned from a long weekend Up North. Up North is the mystical land that exists in the Northern parts of the American Midwest. It’s the land of lakes and woods and hills and rivers. It’s the land of sweaters even in the summer, bonfires, and mugs of tea and hot toddies all day. It’s a location, yes, but mostly a state of mind. I’m convinced that going Up North is a requirement for being a Minnesotan. It was my first time experiencing Up North, so it only took me three years to belong to where I live.

It was a wonderful weekend. We were on the shore of Lake Superior, which Aaron casually informed me is the largest lake by area in the world. It was almost like a sea, complete with tides. The color shifted- here gunmetal gray, here dark pink, here churning blue- by the hour, and the shore was strewn with driftwood. We slept with a down comforter and the windows open. Aaron whittled a walking stick. I read a novel in a day. There was a wood fire hot tub. It was the exact mini vacation we needed.

I did not make this soup on our trip. I left most of the cooking to our friends who were with us, save some cookies and pies made in a truly dicey oven. But this is the soup that I made when we returned, and I spend a good part of our three hour drive home planning it. I’d also like to publicly proclaim my love and gratitude to Aaron, who not only tolerates my endless discussions of whether sage or thyme is better with cauliflower, but offers his opinions.

This is a deliciously easy soup. Onions and leeks form a sweet backbone, and the nuttiness of the cauliflower is echoes in the brown ale. The whole mess is seasoned with nutmeg, cardamom, mustard, and thyme (because that was the eventual verdict). It’s warming and comforting, clean but not bland. It’s the type of soup makes sense whether it’s sipped from tin cups in a cabin or served in china with cloth napkins.

The garnishes are completely optional, as always, but I find that they bring the whole soup together and make it feel like a full meal rather than two-thirds of one. If you’re interested supplementing this soup, it would be fantastic with some crusty bread, good butter, and a bountiful green salad.


Cauliflower and Brown Ale Soup

Serves 4

When choosing the beer for this soup I’d prioritize malt over hops. I went with Newcastle Brown Ale, because it’s nutty and malty and sweet but not heavy. Any beer with those same qualities should be delicious.

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 large leeks, thinly sliced
1 large onion, diced
1 cauliflower head, trimmed and roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons thyme leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon (about a pinch) cayenne pepper
2 cups brown ale
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

For serving:

crushed walnuts
olive oil
pepper flakes, such as Aleppo

In a large pot warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and onions and a pinch of salt. Let the onions and leeks soften, stirring occasionally, until they are starting to take on a bit of color. This should take about 10 minutes.

Add in the cauliflower, garlic, thyme, mustard, spices, and a teaspoon of salt. Stir well, and let it cook until the cauliflower is just starting to break apart. This should take about 5-8 minutes. Add the beer and 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer, and simmer for 30 minutes, until the cauliflower is soft enough to break apart with a spoon.

Using a blender or an immersion blender blend the soup until smooth. Add the apple cider vinegar, and taste. Add as much salt as it needs, and taste again. It should be creamy and mild, nutty but not  boring. Blend again while slowly adding the last two tablespoons of olive oil.

Serve hot, topped with yogurt, Aleppo pepper flakes, crushed walnuts, and a drizzle of olive oil.


Radicchio Salad with Gorgonzola and Hazelnuts


Last week I made basically this salad at work for family meal. We had some radicchio to get rid of, and so I chopped it roughly and tossed it with some tarragon, bleu cheese from a new salad on my station, and some hazelnuts from an old salad. It was the first thing to disappear, and while eating it I thought it would fit in well here.

I love that this salad takes almost no time to make, but rewards with some big flavors. Radicchio is a bitter vegetable, with an almost medicinal bite. The tarragon brings in a sweet, anise note. The dressing plumps up currants and hazelnuts both with some red wine vinegar, which brings some sharpness and a wine-y sweetness to the salad. The hazelnuts and bleu cheese, however, really make this spectacular. In one bite you get bitter, tart, nutty, pungent, sweet, sharp, and creamy.

At family meal we ate this along side hoison and sriracha hot dogs. When making this at home I had it along side a baked potato. Neither of those were ideal, but hey, that’s how it works sometimes. If you’re looking for an ideal accompaniment, roast chicken (for meat eaters) or a quiche (for vegetarians) would be killer.

Sorry for the quick note, but I’m off experiencing “Up North” for the first time. I’ll be back with more soon. Until then, happy Monday.


Radicchio Salad with Gorgonzola and Hazelnuts

To prepare the radicchio I cut the head into quarters, then cut each quarter in half and sliced very thinly. A mandoline would also work well. In order to crush the hazelnuts, you could use the flat side of a chef’s knife (or a heavy, flat bottomed glass or ramekin) to push the hazelnuts down until they break.

1 large head of radicchio, thinly sliced
1/4 cup tarragon leaves
2 ounces creamy, mild bleu cheese, like gorgonzola
1/2 a shallot, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon currants
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup hazelnuts, crushed

In a small bowl combine the currents, shallots, and red wine vinegar. Allow it to sit for 15 minutes. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

In a large bowl combine the radicchio, tarragon, and bleu cheese. Pinch the bleu cheese off into pieces about the size of a hazelnut. Add the dressing and toss well, making sure the whole thing is well covered and well combined. Top with the crushed hazelnuts and serve.


Cabbage and Rice Soup with Paprika and Sherry


In the interest of economizing lately I’ve been turning to my pantry. Pantries are a magical thing- stuffed with dried beans, grains, cans of soup and coconut milk, pasta, lentils, vinegars, olive oil, nutella, and six types of sugar. At least, my pantry is. And that’s not counting the fresh staples that I always have on hand. There may not be an infinite variation of meals from these ingredients, but I haven’t hit the limit yet. It feels good to have a well-stocked larder. It feels like I could cook for months- as long as I can buy vegetables once a week.

Part of the efficiency of a pantry relies on actually using the things that I’ve collected, and that’s where I tend to fail. Dried beans? I’ve got ten types. And I even use them once in a while. But as fall truly arrives I’m interested in turning more towards pulses and grains.

I made this soup because I was curious if I could turn cabbage and rice soup- a drab sounding name if I’ve ever heard one- into something blog-worthy. As it turns out, the secret is in the spices.

Spices are another part of a well-stocked pantry that don’t get the attention they deserve. Too often spice cabinets are stocked with relics of decades past, the spices having lost their vibrancy a long time ago. I think that’s a reason Americans don’t cook much with spices- we are used to dusty old things, and don’t know how delicious spices can be.

Ground spices keep in good shape for a year, tops, before it’s time to toss them. Aaron and I buy most of our spices in bulk by the tablespoon, and buy actual jars of the ones that we go through quickly- mostly cumin, cinnamon, and paprika.

This soup relies on a mixture of smoked paprika, cayenne, mustard seed, fennel, allspice, and nutmeg. The taste twists and turns on your tongue- here pungent, here smokey, here spicy, here sweet. It’s hearty, but also sultry. Leeks and onions, cooking low and slow with butter, bring in a delicate sweetness. There’s a serious dose of sherry that comes in to elevating the nutty, earthy combination of brown rice and cabbage. And a flurry of Parmesan cheese brings out the nutty, salty, sweet notes of the rest of the soup.

It’s the kind of soup that makes me grateful fall is here. I hope you feel the same.



Cabbage and Rice Soup with Paprika and Sherry

If you don’t have sherry on hand, a fruity wine, either red or white, will do just fine.

Serves 6

2 tablespoons butter
1/2 an onion, diced
2 large leeks, halved, thinly sliced, and washed well
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground fennel
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup brown rice
1/2 a small cabbage, ribs removed and thinly sliced
1 cup sherry
6 cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

Parmesan cheese for serving

In a large saucepan melt the butter over medium low heat. Add the onions, leeks, and a pinch of salt. Stir well, and let cook down until the onions and leeks have softened, and the liquid that the leeks give off is mostly evaporated, between ten and fifteen minutes.

Add the mustard seeds, paprika, cayenne, nutmeg, allspice, fennel, and black pepper and stir well. Let cook for a minute or two, until the spices are fragrant. Stir in the tomato paste and let cook until it too is fragrant.

Stir in the rice and the cabbage. Let them cook, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is starting to break down just a little bit. This should take about ten minutes.

Add in the sherry and broth, and stir well. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Allow to simmer, uncovered, for about 35 minutes, until the rice is tender. If the soup gets too thick while cooking then add enough water to bring it back to a soup-like consistancy. Add the vinegar, and taste for seasoning- you may need more salt.

Serve hot, topped with grated Parmesan cheese.


London Fog


I like to do non-work work at coffee shops. The vibe is chill, the music is usually killer, and there’s something about being surrounded by other productive people that makes me want to keep my head down and get stuff done. I love almost everything about coffee shops, except for my lack of options.

Here in Minneapolis I have a favorite coffee shop that takes tea seriously, and I get by without feeling cheated. But it’s surprisingly common for even good shops label their tea options as black or green. And forget about the indulgent, treat-yo-self-y variations that coffee drinkers get.

On some tough days I like to get a good tea latte. That seems to be the umbrella term for flavored tea based drinks mixed and milk. Chai lattes are the most common and they can be delicious, though I’ve found they tend to run a bit sweet for my taste. I’m certainly not above ordering a bright, grassy green tea latte from Starbucks. But one of my favorites is a London Fog, which is surprisingly rare and absolutely delicious.

London Fogs are simple- Earl Grey tea mixed with steamed milk and vanilla. I’ve seen variations that use lavender, or lapsang souchong for a smokey take (also known as a London Smog). I don’t have a regular source for London Fogs near me, so I’ve made dozens with variations of milk, ratios, steeping time, and sweetness level. All this work is to deliver you a solid recipe (and so I can have them whenever I want).

Here’s what I found. My preferred way to make a London Fog is to brew a strong cup of tea, then heat and froth the milk. I like a 3:1 ratio of tea to milk, but Aaron, who indulges in actual lattes as his coffee house treat of choice liked a 2:1 better. I found that the vanilla and Earl Grey both needed a tiny bit of sugar to sing. And my preferred tool for making a frothy latte is a milk frother, a cheap little battery operated wand. However, both an immersion blender and some vigorous whisking will work. If you’re not into single use gadgets (and I swear I’m not, though I make no promises for Aaron), you can make it with what you’ve got.

I’m using my Monday to recover from the weekend (hi, double on Saturday/ debate on Sunday) by drinking a London Fog and listening to the incomparable John Hiatt. If you’re trying to jump into this week, I might offer you the same advice. Or any day, really. The fall is better with London Fogs.


London Fog

Serves 1

You can play with ratios as you’d like for this- the formula remains the same. I wouldn’t use any tea that’s too fancy here- the nuances will get lost in the milk. Cheap Earl Grey will work just fine.

2 teabags Earl Grey tea
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Bring 1 cup of water to boil. Pour into a mug with the Earl Grey. Cover (I used a small plate, turned upside down) and let steep for 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes have passed add the milk, vanilla, and sugar to a small saucepan. Heat the milk over low heat until small bubbles begin to appear at the side of the saucepan. Remove the saucepan from heat, and begin to froth the milk with whatever method you choose. If you’re using a milk frother or immersion blender, just turn it on and  hold it in place, though you may need tilt the milk to one side, depending on how wide your saucepan is. If you’re using a whisk, just go to town on it. You want for all the milk to appear frothed as you scrape the bottom of the pan.

Remove the teabags from the tea and add the frothed milk. Drink immediately.


White Beans with Fennel, Lemon, and Tomato from “A Modern Way to Cook”


A week ago I was having a relaxing morning before work. You know the routine. Make yourself breakfast. Eat breakfast while sipping caffeine of choice. Do both while checking on blogs. Accidentally spill caffeine of choice on your computer.


That was painful. I hadn’t planned for a new computer, and there were a lot of files on that old computer that weren’t saved anywhere else. And without wanting to inflate my own importance, I would argue that it’s painful for you. Because I had a recipe for you that I only get to share just now. And it’s filled with all sorts of good stuff. Specifically, beans, fennel, lemon, and tomato.

These beans come from Anna Jones‘ new book A Modern Way to Cook. I’m slightly obsessed with Anna Jones’ work. Her first book, A Modern Way to Eat is one of my most used cookbooks, and for good reason. She writes smart recipes that are clever without being precious. It’s hard to flip through the pages of her books without being inspired. She brings a cook’s eye to presentation and plays with form and texture. But she forgets that food should be delicious and nourishing, but it needs to be approachable. That’s a message I appreciate in any cookbook, but especially in a vegetarian cookbook that promotes healthy eating.

Her new book is divided not by meals or seasons, but by time commitment. I found these beans labeled as a 25 minute dinner, and immediately had to make them. I love the sweetness that comes from the fennel and honey, the tang from the lemons and vinegar, and the savory notes from the garlic and spices. It truly comes together in 25 minutes (maybe even faster), which means it’s great for spur of the moment dinner decisions (aka, the only kind I have). And I love that you get something hearty and earthy and rich without any esoteric ingredients, or convoluted technique.

It’s a fantastic dinner. And I can’t wait to cook obsessively through this book.

White Beans with Fennel, Lemon, and Tomato

adapted from A Modern Way to Cook by Anna Jones

Serves 4

Anna calls for canned lima beans in her original recipe. I have never seen canned lima beans, and so I made mine with Great Northern beans, which were delicious. Anna suggests accompanying this with a green salad or some flatbread, but Aaron and I devoured it with some runny cheese and crusty sourdough.

1 large fennel bulb
2 tablespoons of olive oil
bunch of green onions, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 lemon, quartered and seeds removed
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 fourteen ounce cans of white beans, drained and rinsed
fennel fronds, for serving
olive oil, for serving

Cut off the fronds of the fennel and set aside. Cut the bulb in half and trim it. Peel off any tough or bruised outer layers, then slice the fennel into half inch slices.

Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil. When the oil it hot, add the fennel, making sure to spread it out so all the fennel makes contact with the oil. Sautée until it’s browning on one side (between 2-4 minutes) then flip, either with tongs or a spatula to the other side. Sautée again until browning, then add the green onions and garlic. Let cook until fragrant, a couple more minutes.

Add the tomatoes and lemon, then add the honey, vinegar, oregano, fennel seed, chilis, and salt. Stir well and let it all heat together for a minute, then add the beans and 1/2 cup of water. Stir again, and then let the whole thing simmer away until the beans are warmed through, about five minutes.

Serve warm, topped with the leafy bits of the fennel fronds and a drizzle of olive oil.