Celebrating cauliflower, a Nordic staple

Roasting cauliflower and caramelizing onions offers layers of flavor to a beloved soup

Photo: Maria Stordahl Nelson The smoked salmon and dill add an extra level of Norwegianness to this cauliflower soup.

Photo: Maria Stordahl Nelson
The smoked salmon and dill add an extra level of Norwegianness to this cauliflower soup.

Maria Stordahl Nelson
Seattle, Wash.

Someone once told me that Scandinavians—Norwegians in particular—consider cauliflower to be a particularly special vegetable, so much so that there is a sense of collective ownership over it. I’ve heard something similar from others over the years, and the plethora of cauliflower recipes—specifically soup recipes—in Scandinavian cookbooks surely lends credence to this notion.

I suspect they feel a bit about cauliflower the same way they feel about cardamom: both from far distant lands, but over time adopted, adapted, and reinvented into dishes that help define the palate of a culture.

My first trip to Norway at the tender age of 13 included a visit to my family’s farm south of Bergen on the Hardanger Fjord. While there I vividly recall being served a light and velvety cauliflower soup. Cauliflower most likely grown in the farm garden, poached in a rich broth, pureed, and simply served with crisp bread and cheese. It was the first time I had experienced cauliflower this way. My previous exposure had been limited to dinnertime side dishes that usually involved cauliflower swimming in cheese sauce, a delicious history to be sure, but not necessarily transformative.

My second trip to Scandinavia occurred while in college with an overnight layover in Copenhagen, en route to Italy. While long on hope and short on time, I dragged my travel companions around town and through dangerous bike traffic in search of a place, any place, where I could get my hands on a steaming bowl of cauliflower goodness. I remember being disappointed that day, but my efforts were eventually rewarded in a dimly lit, cozy restaurant on my return layover trip. I recall that bowl of soup tasting all the sweeter for the wanting.

For me, a perfect cauliflower soup is one that has layers of flavor. Onion, garlic, shallot, and cauliflower carefully caramelized in olive oil and gently blended with cream. I want to see the telltale brown flecks of roasted, sweetened vegetables in my soup, lending it a slightly more complex flavor. This recipe is a delightful combination of tradition and adaptation and worthy of gracing any table for either lunch or dinner.

Photo: Maria Stordahl Nelson

Photo: Maria Stordahl Nelson

Caramelized Cauliflower Soup with Smoked Salmon & Dill
1 head cauliflower, cored and cut into small pieces
2 tbsps. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsps. olive oil
1 large shallot, diced
½ yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
½ cup heavy whipping cream
4 oz. smoked salmon, flaked
1 small bunch dill

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Scatter cauliflower on to a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle the oil over the top. Use your hands to toss the cauliflower and make sure the oil is evenly distributed. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the top. Bake for 35 minutes or until the cauliflower begins to look crispy and is brown in places.

Remove from the oven and set aside. In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and onion and sauté until both are beginning to turn dark brown and caramelized around the edges. Add the garlic and continue to sauté 1-2 minutes more until fragrant. Add the roasted cauliflower and the chicken stock. Bring to a simmer. Turn the heat to low and add the heavy cream. Heat thoroughly but do not allow the soup to boil at this point. Remove from the heat and use an immersion blender to puree the ingredients.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with the salmon and dill. Enjoy.

Serves 4.

Maria Stordahl Nelson is a Seattle-area food writer, photographer, and recipe developer. She shares her love of all things sweet, savory, and sometimes Nordic at www.pinkpatisserie.net.

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 26, 2016, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.