From Scratch: Turn cauliflower into spicy delight


Having been born in York, I think a thrift gene was inserted into my genetic code. Having parents who grew up during the Depression reinforced it.

When I saw a basketball-size head of local cauliflower for $1.25 at Eastern Market last week, I couldn't resist.

Although cauliflower is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family and thus loaded with cancer-fighting vitamins, I always found its white color off-putting. However, a few years ago, I stumbled across a recipe for Hungarian cauliflower soup that really sparked my appetite.

Paprika turned the ghostlike vegetable into a reddish-orange soup perfect for the fall weather. The inclusion of spaetzle, tiny egg dumplings, sealed the deal for me. Though I like hot food, the original recipe was off the charts in hotness, so I made a few adaptations. You can do the same if you find the recipe too spicy for your taste.

Dumplings: Begin by making the dumplings. In a small bowl, measure 1/2 cup flour and add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Then cut 2 tablespoons butter into small pieces and mix into the flour. I usually use my fingers to do this, as it doesn't seem worth the effort to get out a pastry cutter.

Continue to cut in the butter until pea-size crumbles form. Add one beaten egg and mix until the dough comes together. It will be a little wet. Place the dough in the refrigerator.

Soup: To make the soup, begin by breaking off the florets from a small head of cauliflower. Cut them into bite-size pieces. If you have a giant head of cauliflower like I did, you can either save half for later or double the soup recipe.

Next, finely chop one large onion and one carrot. In a 6-quart saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter. Add the chopped onions, 1 tablespoon sweet (regular) paprika and 1 teaspoon hot paprika. If you can't find hot paprika in the store, add a bit of cayenne pepper.

Saute the onions on medium heat until soft, about 7 minutes. Then add the cauliflower, chopped carrots and 6 cups stock (I hope you remembered to boil your last chicken carcass for stock) or water, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce the flame to a simmer. Cook until the cauliflower is tender and can be pierced easily with a knife, about 15 minutes.

Take out the dumpling dough and turn up the heat a bit. With your fingers, break off small pieces of dough and drop them into the simmering soup. Cook for about 3 minutes more.

Serve the soup with chopped parsley sprinkled on top for added color and contrast.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section.