This past week has been a bit of a rough one for me. Aside from the usual angst that comes with dissertating, I returned from being out of town after a quick trip to New Orleans where I indulged, as always, in far too much. Of everything.
I suspect the universe didn’t approve of my overindulgence. Indeed, I found myself sick just a day after my return to Portland, where I’ve since been fighting a nasty cold.
Unfortunately, work doesn’t stop because you have a cold, much as I wish it could since I’m presently teaching a Sociology course at a local university and you have no idea (or maybe you do?) how awful it is to lecture when you feel like all of your energy and vivaciousness has been sucked dry. Like every step you take, every word you utter, just might end your time on earth as you know it. And when you’re expected to perform during such a time….Well, that’s just the worst.
Fifty pairs of eyes stared at me as I stood in front of the podium earlier this week. They were waiting for me to lead. To educate. To be…competent. All the while, every time I opened my mouth I sounded like a caricature of my true self. My stuffy nose, rubbed red and raw around the edges, made every word sound foreign. My voice was several octaves lower than usual. And my mind was clouded, barely able to form sentences, much less be sharp and engaged with the bright young minds sitting before me.
But the silver lining of having a cold is when you reach Friday at 5pm. This was the moment when I could resign to the illness and spend some quality time recovering. Of course, my cold put a bit of a damper on our Halloween plans, but it turns out my husband got called into work all weekend, so I felt a little better knowing our plans were shot to shit regardless of my health. And so I decided to spend my weekend in a bit of a time hop. To the 1940’s to be exact. Listening to music and watching movies that numbed my mind and warmed my heart.
Billie Holiday’s “I’ll Be Seeing You,” on repeat. So calm. Soulful. Healing.
And my movie of choice on Halloween night wasn’t The Shining or Stir of Echoes. Those are far too scary for someone who’s sick and flying solo all evening. No, my mind went to Bing. Bing Crosby, that is. My man.
I scrolled through all of his films available on iTunes, but the one that caught my eye was Holiday Inn. It’s always on my list of “December movies”—those movies I watch every single year leading up to Christmas that warm me to my core. And I suppose that’s what I really was craving this Halloween. Just a little bit of self-love after a week that really, for lack of a better word, blew.
So I got down with a little Billie. A little Bing. And a little bit of cauliflower soup, which together made it all somehow worth it.
I prepared this cauliflower soup with Moroccan-spiced almonds, its base thick and viscous. When I poured it into our bowls, it left my ladle like lava creeping out of the mouth of a volcano, invading the pristine white of my bowl with reckless abandon. A rich, creamy concoction.
Given cauliflower’s tolerant base, its best when coupled with bold, intense flavors. I paired it here with a complex yet complementary bundle of Moroccan spices. Sweet cinnamon, slightly sour ginger, and earthy cumin. The nuttiness of toasted almonds danced with the spice mixture on my tongue, frolicking in the heat of harissa, red as a fire-engine, and the cool, crispness of fresh cilantro leaves.
I’m not saying I wish every week to be like this one. It was a shit week if I’m being totally honest. But, if the best possible ending culminated in jazz, Bing, and a rich, bold Moroccan-style soup, then I think it’s safe to say I really don’t have all that much to complain about.
- • 1 large head of cauliflower
- • salt and pepper
- • 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, divided into 2 parts
- • 1 onion, chopped coarsely
- • 2 tablespoons of butter, plus extra olive oil if needed (or, for a vegan version, replace with olive oil)
- • ¼ teaspoon (each) of ground cinnamon, cardamom seeds, cumin, coriander, ground ginger, paprika, and salt
- • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- • 1 cup of sliced almonds
- • 1 russet potato, peeled and sliced into bite sized pieces
- • 1 cup of cream (or, for a vegan version, use coconut or almond milk)
- • 6 cups of vegetable stock (or chicken stock), plus more to suit your desired thickness
- • 1-3 teaspoons of salt (add one at a time; I used only 1 teaspoon, but it will very much depend on your taste as well as how much you salted the cauliflower before roasting)
- • Harissa, for garnish
- • Cilantro, for garnish
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Chop the cauliflower in half and then cut the florets off the stalk. Place on a baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast for 45-60 minutes, or until cauliflower begins to turn golden brown along the edges.
- While the cauliflower is roasting, chop the onion. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a medium skillet and heat over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook until onions are soft and nearly translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a plate.
- In the same skillet, over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of butter. Once butter is melted, add the spices and sliced almonds and toast until fragrant and almonds turn a light golden color, about 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. Be careful not to let any of the contents (including the butter) burn. If anything begins to burn, reduce heat to low and continue cooking. If they begin to look too dry, add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, a little bit at a time. Remove from heat when almonds are golden and set aside.
- In a large pot, bring the vegetable stock to a boil. Add potatoes, roasted cauliflower, onions, garlic, and salt and boil for 10 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Once potatoes are tender and able to be pierced easily with a fork, add cream. Using an immersion blender, blend (or puree in a food processor) until soup is thick and creamy. If too thick for your tastes, add vegetable stock, one cup at a time, until you reach your desired consistency.
- Garnish with spiced almonds, cilantro, and harissa.