Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Black Olive Oil

Ah, soup season. How I love thee. Especially for those of us in the north, hot soup is the perfect dinner for a winter night. Not only does it warm you up, but it usually yields a lot. Soups are also easy to whip up with only a few ingredients and are very leftover-friendly, so they’re great for when you aren’t able or willing to go to the store. This particular soup is rich and earthy and very adaptable. This recipe feeds 4.

My favorite way to make it is with black olive oil and za’atar. Black olive oil is pretty expensive and difficult to find, but it is surprisingly easy to make. It has a much stronger, salty flavor than traditional olive oil. Za’atar is a middle eastern spice blend that has a unique flavor to it. It usually contains sesame seeds, sumac, salt, and thyme or oregano.

For Black Olive Oil

  • 1 cup kalamata olives (pitted)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/3 cup good olive oil

Start by preheating your oven to 275 degrees and lining a baking sheet with parchment paper. Now use a paring knife to cut each olive in half. I know, it’s kind of a pain in the ass, but it will help the olives get nice and crisp while they bake. Spread the olive halves across the sheet evenly and bake for about 3 hours. They should be dry and crisp when they come out.

Add the dried olives and a little of the olive oil to a food processor and blend until a paste forms. Add the rest of the oils and keep processing until it comes together into one dark oil, about 1 minute.

Pour this oil through a fine strainer to remove any remaining bits of the kalamata olives. you should be left with a very dark oil. Don’t throw out that paste in the strainer though! You paid good money for those kalamatas. Personally I like to use their paste similarly to tapenade as a sandwich or toast topping.

Keep the oil in the fridge in an airtight jar. It may separate a bit over time but you can just shake it up again before you use it.

For Soup:

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • Olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 32 oz container chicken stock
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
  • 4 Tbsp za’atar seasoning
  • Black olive oil (recipe above)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. While that’s heating up, you can cut the head of cauliflower into nice florets. Try to get them all to be roughly the same size, but don’t sweat it if they aren’t exact. Toss the cauliflower florets with olive oil (the normal kind, not your fancy black olive oil). On a large baking sheet (or 2, probably) roast the cauliflower for 30 minutes. It should get all brown and crispy on the bottom. This is good. We like brown and crispy.

Set that aside for now. Finely dice the onion and mince the garlic cloves. In a large dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat, melt 1 Tablespoon of the butter. We’ll use the rest of it in a few minutes. Sauté the onion and garlic in the butter until soft and beginning to color, about 5 minutes. *Add the chicken stock. I like to add a splash of it first to deglaze the pan before I pour in the rest. You can also substitute veggie broth if you would prefer a vegetarian-friendly soup.

*Tip: IF you do not have an immersion blender, add the cooked onions, garlic and cauliflower to a food processor or blender to puree before adding the stock.

When that comes to a simmer, add the roasted cauliflower. Using an immersion blender, process the soup until very smooth. This might take 4-5 minutes. Drop in the rest of the butter for a glossier look and texture.

Finally, you can add 1/2 cup of heavy cream for a richer texture. Honestly, it really doesn’t NEED it. Cauliflower has this magical ability to become creamy and thick on its own in soups and purees. That said, I stick to the “more fat will always make food better” camp, so I like to add the extra cream.

To serve, drizzle with a little of the black olive oil and a tablespoon or so of za’atar seasoning. Za’atar can be difficult to find in some places. If it is not available around you, you can make your own blend. I like this one, personally. Some za’atar has cumin in it and some does not. Either one will work well with this soup, though I prefer the cumin.

**There are plenty of other ways you could garnish this soup too. Its earthy, subtle flavor lends itself to all kinds of spice flavors. You could do add oregano to some plain olive oil and drizzle it over with some feta, for example. Maybe some curry powder and an extra pat of butter? It’s up to you (or what’s in your pantry) so be creative.

As always, if you make this soup or any of my other recipes, I’d love to see it! Tag me on Instagram @nhubble or use the hashtag #followthatfork.

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