I am hoping that Aran won't mind me taking that liberty, as it was her that made me think of it in the first place. Throughout Small Plates and Sweet Treats she mentions substitutions, and links recipes to others, in a chatty way that shows how her recipes are not meant to stand alone. As you spend time any time with the book, Aran's overarching skill with flavour combinations is obvious, and what's more is that it is harmonious. The chapters and dishes flow together seamlessly, making it easy to pick and choose based on whim, or interest, or fickle weather.
Small Plates and Sweet Treats is a gem. It inspires me to look at recipes in a new way, to cook outside my usual, and it is her brilliant use of a variety of grains and cereals that I've found myself incorporating into our routine, time and again. Aran imbues all her cooking with vibrancy, suggests pairings that had never occurred to me, and has particular opinions on something as simple as red beans, which makes me wonder if I have one too.
Hers is an inspiring voice, and one that I'm happy to have for company.
Thanks for all the conversations, friend. xo
ROASTED CAULIFLOWER + LEEK SOUP WITH PEA SHOOT + ALMOND PESTO
From the book Small Plates and Sweet Treats: My family's journey to gluten-free cooking (Little Brown and Company, 2012) by Aran Goyaga.
This soup is aromatic, supple, and mild in a way that is soothing — not at all bland. It has presence without demanding attention. Pea tendrils are the basis of the pesto, which is more than a garnish, rather an integral component as well. The raw, grassy shoots offset the mellow roasted vegetables, and the aroma of the fresh garlic in the sauce is brought out by the warmth of the soup. It makes for a bang up combination. As noted, this soup was originally served with a dandelion green and hazelnut pesto, and the pea shoot pesto was to dress ricotta gnocchi; for reference, the recipes appear on pages 99 and 156, respectively.
The recipe here is as written in the book, with my notes following after.
Serves 4 to 6
For the pea shoot and almond pesto
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup (40 g) slivered almonds
- 2 cups (60 g) pea shoots, tough stalks removed and chopped
- 1 ounce (30 g) Parmesan cheese, finely grated
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) olive oil
For the roasted cauliflower and leek soup
- 1 medium cauliflower (1 pound or 450 g), cut into small florets
- 1/2 medium leek, cut into large rings
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 medium russet potato, peeled and diced
- 3 cups (750 ml) chicken stock
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Make the pesto. Place the garlic and almonds in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the almonds are finely chopped. Add the pea shoots and process into a paste. Add the Parmesan, salt, and pepper. Pulse one more time. Add the olive oil in a slight stream while the processor is on and process until a smooth paste forms. Scrape down the sides and mix well.
TIP: If pea shoots are not available, watercress or spinach would be a great substitute. The pesto can be made in advance. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 1 month.
Make the soup.
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Toss together the cauliflower, leek, onion, garlic, olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Transfer to a baking sheet and roast for 25 minutes or until golden.
- Transfer the roasted vegetables to a large pot. Add the diced potato, chicken stock, coconut milk, thyme leaves, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender.
- Purée the soup in a blender. Adjust the seasoning and serve with the pesto.
A few small things that I'm divulging out of honesty, not out of any conceit that you must follow suit —
- I used goat's milk instead of the coconut milk because we had some in the fridge. Its sharpness was lovely.
- The bunch of thyme I thought I had went missing, and so was left out. The pea shoot pesto packs such flavour, that the soup was still a knockout.
- I garnished the soup with chili oil.