Culinary SOS: Curry cauliflower soup has sweet heat

Dear SOS: I was at Mendocino Farms the other day. They had a cauliflower curry soup that was amazing. The home run for me was that it was broth-based as opposed to dairy. Any chance you could get the recipe from them?

— Rafael Mesa,

Hollywood, Calif.

Dear Rafael: A lentil broth provides a nice base to this soup and, along with the coconut broth, gives this a richness you don't always find with vegetarian soups. Cauliflower, carrot and potato are flavored with curry powder; cayenne pepper is added for heat and agave nectar for sweetness.

Mendocino Farms’ Coconut Curry Cauliflower Soup

1 hour, 40 minutes. Serves 8 to 12.

Lentils and lentil stock

2 cups green lentils

1 small carrot, peeled and roughly chopped

1 small onion, peeled and quartered

2 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole

2 sprigs thyme

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons kosher salt

6 cups water

Rinse the lentils and place in a medium, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the carrot, onion, garlic, thyme, olive oil, salt and water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a very gentle simmer, skim any scum floating on top and loosely cover. Continue to cook until the lentils are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat and pull out the carrot, onion, garlic and thyme. Strain the lentils, reserving 4 cups of the lentil stock and 2 cups of the cooked lentils (any leftover stock and lentils can be used for another purpose). If you are short the 4 cups stock, add enough water to make 4 cups.

Coconut curry cauliflower soup

1 head cauliflower, cut into mini-florets

1 large carrot, finely diced

1/2 cup oil, divided

2 tsp. salt, divided

1 onion, minced

3/4 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, finely diced

2 tsp. curry powder

1 tsp. turmeric powder

1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper

1/8 tsp. black pepper

4 cups lentil stock

2 cups water

1 (11-oz.) package coconut milk

2 Tbsp. agave nectar

2 cups cooked lentils

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Take 2 cups of the prettiest cauliflower florets and toss with the diced carrot in 3 tablespoons oil and one-half teaspoon salt. Spread the vegetables onto a rimmed baking sheet and roast until tender, 8 to 12 minutes. Remove and set aside. This will be added at the very end of the recipe.

Toss the remaining cauliflower with 2 tablespoons oil and one-half teaspoon salt. Spread out onto a rimmed baking sheet and roast until tender, 8 to 12 minutes; use this for the soup.

In a medium, heavy-bottomed pot, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add the onions and saute until translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the cauliflower you roasted for the soup, the potatoes, curry powder, turmeric, cayenne and black pepper, along with the lentil stock and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer, loosely cover, and continue to cook until the potatoes are tender, about 12 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk. Increase the heat and bring the soup to a boil, then remove from heat.

Cool the soup slightly, then puree until smooth. Add the agave nectar and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir in the cooked lentils, along with the roasted cauliflower and carrots. Gently reheat, then taste, and adjust the seasonings and flavorings as desired. This makes about 3 quarts of soup.

Each of 12 servings: Calories 280; protein 8 g; carbohydrates 27 g; fiber 10 g; fat 17 g; saturated fat 6 g; cholesterol 0; sugar 2 g; sodium 834 mg