Saturday, January 29, 2011

Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Crispy Pancetta and Shitakes

I have been cryptic lately in my posts. So, I am just putting my news out there. Along with my recipes, photos, stories and kitchen tips, you have also been reading about my heartache. My marriage has dissolved. Ten years of togetherness has come to sudden end. An unexpected surprise filled with a kind of sadness I had not thought possible. Wave after wave filled with numbness, anger, sorrow, freedom, completeness and struggle are filled also with the knowing I will wash up on dry shore. I have been very lucky to have an entire community of friends and family tenderly holding me as I watch the carefully crafted fabric of my life be torn and stitched back together in a different way. I have wondered about those in the world who go through these experiences alone. I can understand how people could reach for food or relationships or drugs to escape this kind of pain. Running away from suffering seems so natural. Going outside of yourself keeps the pain at a distance. I am not though. I have chosen to dive into the inhospitable waters of my anguish and learn how to swim a new way. And you are here, reading this. So, thank you. All of you.

I packed a lot of boxes today. I am moving in a matter of weeks. So, meals are being simplified. I have one less person to cook for these past months, so my six year old has become my own professional pint-sized foodie companion. I hope I have not created a foodie monster. I am having visions of her starting protests someday in college because the salad bar does not have organic arugula. I think I will be able to keep it under control though. She loves a bagel just as much as she loves croissants. But her flavor palate is very evolved for a little person. Yesterday I had her try goat cream cheese. She loved it. Day before last she devoured a plate of oven roasted romanesco. I feel incredibly lucky that I will know all these little moments of her life. Last night it was creamy cauliflower soup with crispy pancetta. She thought it tasted like a bowl of mashed potato soup (with a version of bacon bits on top?). Simple does not have to taste simple though and this soup is a perfect example. We each had a bowl for dinner. I just ate another for a late lunch. The pancetta really gives this dish depth. The salty with the mellow cauliflower perks it right up. I used butter instead of my usual olive oil to keep it creamy. Since there is no cream, I wanted it to have some richness. So easy, so quick.

Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Crispy Pancetta and Shitake Mushrooms
serves 3 larger bowl or 4 small

1 med/large head of cauliflower
2- 2 1/2 cups stock (I used organic chicken)
pinch salt
1 1/2 tbls butter
3 oz. thinly sliced pancetta (or proscuitto)
2 cups chopped shitake mushrooms

Steam the head of cauliflower until tender. Put in a blender and add 2 cups stock. Blend. If it is too thick, add 1/2 cup more stock. Puree until smooth (about 2 min). Pour into sauce pan and cook on low simmer for 10 min. Taste for salt.
In cast iron (or non-stick) pan cook pieces of pancetta like you would bacon. Remove from pan with a fork when brown and crispy on each side. Add to the pan shitakes and 1 tbls. water to deglaze the pan. Sautee until soft; about 8 min. Chop the pancetta and top the soup with a spoonful of pancetta and shitakes.


Cindy Rowland said...

Even though we haven't met, I had a feeling something major along these lines was going on. You're so brave to put it out there and work through it. I can't imagine how hard it must be for you.

I'm still enjoying your cooking as always. I sometimes wonder how my kids are going to react to the food in college too. But your girl has extra good eats going on.

Jessica said...

Cindy; thank you for saying that. I really appreciate how much you support and enjoy my blog. It means a lot.

Cindy Foxfoot said...

Jess, It's true you are so very brave and you have embraced change and heart ache and are making the best of it, so inspiring! This soup is perfect for me and my girls, I'm making it this week, ingredients are on my shopping list! Love and Peace

Becky said...

Here's hoping that sharing it with everyone takes some of the weight off of your load.

We all love you, Jess. Mae is so lucky.

Nancy said...

Hi Jessica,
I am sorry to hear about the difficult situation you are going through right now; it is good to know that you are treating yourself with compassion and patience. Your daughter is lucky to have such a great mom :)

And, this soup is incredible! It looks so creamy, and the crispy pancetta and shiitakes really send it over the top. I love the combinations you come up with!

Caffettiera said...

I hope that if anything along the lines of what happened to you, happens to me, I'll be able to react with such admirable strength and honesty as you are.

It is inspiring that you are cooking wonderful recipes, and training your daughter to share your passion about food.

pam said...

I love your blog! I am a friend of Becky's and she recommended it to me. I have been following along for quite a while now. Your recipes sound delicious. Your daughter sounds delightful. The sharing of your life is insightful, courageous, and inspirational. I admire you and wish you all good things!

Jessica said...

Cindy; tell me what the girls think of the soup! see you on tuesday..
Becky; as always you have such great supportive words.
Nancy; I have really enjoyed getting to know you through out blogs!
Caffetteria; gosh I hope you never have to go through this. I will keep hope alive it won't be your fate!
Pam; welcome! thank you for the compliment :)

Jo in France said...

You are so brave and your writing is so beautiful - as beautiful as your cooking looks... :)

I am always thrilled to hear about small people and their food discoveries/journeys. These are precious times and you will have good memories of the time the two of you spent alone before this move, teaching her, watching her delight in new tastes and flavours.

I'm glad you have a passion for cooking - sometimes it can be therapeutic to think and and stir.

Thanks for sharing with us and thanks as always for the recipes.

Anonymous said...

can you just come over and make this FOR me???

Anonymous said...

This soup is beautiful! I'm sorry you're going through this hard time. I hope it passes quickly and doesn't interrupt the fine work you do here. I'm inspired by your work all the time!

Anonymous said...

I agree, it's so brave of you to share what's going on in your life here. I wish you the best and hate the heartache and pain that this brings.

I also love this recipe; convenience in whole-food form is something most people don't know even exists! And cauliflower is such an underused vegetable.

Also -yes, I've been WWOOFing a lot this past year and the San Fran area is still a place I'd like to see. I'll let you know if I'm ever there and on a farm!

Ashley said...

Jessica, M is lucky to have a strong and courageous woman like you for a role model and a mother.

uncatim said...

I am sorry about your anguish. Perhaps it may help a little to know that others who are similarly suffering take some solace in your words, example, photos, & recipes. We do. Peace.

Jessica said...

JoInFrance; thank you..and wondering how winter is going for you in France!
TracingTerroir; if you ever would like some Woofing leads here, I have plenty
Uncatim; in my deepest heart hope you too are not suffering through this kind of situation. If you are, my sympathies. Thank you for inspiring me to come through this a stronger, more loving person. xo
Ashley; M is doing pretty well. She is excited about our move and I think that is helping. But thank you for the compliment. Being a suddenly single mother is pretty crazy!

Becky said...

Nearly 30 years ago, I was where you are now. You are showing courage and determination to live, laugh, taste, feel, and keep your heart alive to joy. That is exactly what will bring you and your daughter not only through this time, but into far better times as your lives unfold. I know this to be true.


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