Things at March’s soupapolooza! started off with a bang. Literally. And while I get super irritated with people who misuse and/ or overuse the term “literally” (I’m looking at you with my side-eye, Rachel Zoe), it is both appropriate and correct in this instance. It was buh-nan-ahs.
Semi-sweet Bitters showed up early on Sunday, as he always does, prepared to cut lemons, fill water bottles, light candles or whatever else I’d managed to forget or ignore. I love this. Even when entertaining close friends who are by nature pretty forgiving, I still stress about having things ready to go before the first arrivals (and by the way, I’m never on time). So the fact that Semi-sweet is almost always the premier guest and he’s game for completing the incomplete, I’m spared a great deal of hair pulling and some serious bouts of Procrastinator’s Agita.
It is also not uncommon for Semi-sweet Bitters to bring his sabre, for sabrage naturally, which is a crowd pleaser to be sure: who doesn’t love watching someone decapitate the top of a champagne bottle with a sword? I have amassed quite a collection of trophies of this handy work on top of my sink, beautiful champagne corks with their glass necks still wrapped around the collar. I love them. They’re kind of like my version of taxidermy animal heads on a study wall, except I don’t have a study and the only things that got killed and stuffed are my sobriety and my good judgement.
But I digress.
On most soup Sundays, there are at least ten or so people in the house before Semi-sweet busts out the sabre, because really, who doesn’t want an audience when wielding a blunt sword? But this Sunday, Sunday bloody Sunday, I happened to have had everything seriously under control before he even showed up. So with nothing to do except make me a champagne cocktail with his BEAUTIFUL artisanal bitters, I saw him, out of the corner of my eye, unsheathe the sabre. Which might make any normal person jump or gird their loins, but it didn’t even register in my pickled little brain-- I was at the stove top with my back to the man who was brandishing both a weapon and an unsuspecting bottle of bubbles. And then, all of a sudden there it was...
...a crash a splash and a yowling meow.
And I didn’t even get to see it happen.
Yes, Semi-sweet Bitters managed to wreck his formerly perfect guillotining record by completely destroying a bottle (exploding it really) and dousing both himself and the Monkey cat in the process.
He was a really good sport about it, cleaning up the shards of green glass, which extended all the way to the far end of my loft, and mopping up the sad and sticky wine from the cement floor before jumping home to change clothes and bring a fresh bottle of Champagne.
I just wish I would have seen his face when it happened. And Monkey’s cat-face for that matter, too. She hid inside the chaise lounge for a good half hour before returning to the party, slightly drunk I imagine, from licking the champagne from her fur.
But let’s talk about the food.
If you aren’t already receiving Tasting Table’s daily emails (sign up at www.tastingtable.com), I would humbly suggest that you do. It’s like Daily Candy for food, and you can join a local daily email blast (NY, LA, Chicago, San Francisco and/or Washington DC), a national blast, a weekly chef recipe blast and/ or a monthly sous chef recipe blast. I really like the recipes-- I’ve made some easy and delicious things from these emails. In fact, I based this week’s soupapolooza! on one of the Tasting Table’s sous chef series recipes: Gramercy Tavern’s sous chef, Chris Bradley’s curried cauliflower soup.
The full menu included chicken tikka samosas with a pear cardamom chutney, a baby spinach salad with persian cucumbers and a lime tamarind vinaigrette served with fried pappadam croutons, the amazing curried cauliflower soup and, for dessert, cupcakes two ways: triple vanilla and chocolate, bacon and toffee cupcakes with maple buttercream frosting. Of course I realize the cupcakes have nothing whatsoever to do with the rest of the menu, but I wanted to make them so I did.
Gramercy Tavern, New York
2 heads cauliflower, cut into florets (about 10 cups)
1 onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1⁄2 leek, white and light green parts only, diced (about 3⁄4 cup)
2 large carrots, diced (about 1 cup)
1⁄4 cup plus 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1⁄2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1⁄2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1⁄2 bunch cilantro, chopped (about 2 cups)
1⁄4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1⁄2 teaspoon mild curry powder
4 garlic cloves, minced
8 cups vegetable stock
3⁄4 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Reserve 1 cup of small cauliflower florets, 1⁄4 cup of onion, 1⁄4 cup of leeks and 1⁄4 cup of carrots for garnish.
In a large pot, warm 1⁄4 cup of the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the remaining onion, leek and carrots and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables have begun to soften, about 6 minutes. Add the cauliflower and cook until soft, about 10 minutes longer.
In a small skillet over medium-high heat, combine the coriander and cumin seeds and toast until they are fragrant and slightly browned, about 2 minutes. In a square of cheesecloth, combine the toasted seeds and the cilantro and tie into a bundle, securing it with a piece of kitchen twine. Add the spice bundle, turmeric, curry powder and garlic to the vegetables in the pot and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the vegetable stock, bring a simmer and cook until the vegetables are very tender, about 25 minutes. Remove the cheesecloth bundle, then puree the soup in a blender until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Return the puree to the pot and keep warm.
In a large skillet, warm the remaining 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the reserved cauliflower, onion, leek and carrots and cook until the vegetables are just tender and lightly browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and reserve.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, olive oil and lime juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Divide the hot soup among 6 deep bowls, garnish with the reserved vegetables and drizzle with the yogurt mixture. Serve immediately.
I had a great time frying the pappadam, and I thought the salad was delicious even though I despise cucumber. Yes, I love pickles but no, I cannot stand cucumbers. Such is the hypocrisy of me.
The soup is actually vegan if you leave off the lime/ yogurt garnish, not that I would suggest you leave that part off since it is a great counterbalance to the curry (which I think I may have almost doubled in the recipe). It is thick, hearty and full of flavor. And if you have any fried pappadam left over from your salad, it is also nice to serve with the soup.
And though I may be really late to the “stunt baking”/ trendy bacon game, the cupcakes were also pretty interesting. There isn’t anything gross about bacon and chocolate at all. They go together like Click and Clack, Laverne & Shirley and Anne Coulter & Secretariat.
After a full day of cooking and a night of drinking, how is a girl to finish her party? Why by standing with her back to the kitchen counter gabbing away with a glass of malbec in her hand, of course. Until, that is, she decides that gripping a glass is just a little too strenuous and she just lets it fall to the floor, crashing into a thousand pieces, traumatizing the poor cat once again. It was a soupapolooza! crime scene.
Some days begin and end with a bang.