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I promised you a special surprise while I was out of town, and here it is – a guest post from my friend Grace! On top of being generally awesome, Grace is a blogger herself – she regularly shares playlists on her music blog, Small and Peculiar. Stop by and show her some love! Maybe you will find a new playlist to accompany your next cooking adventure.

One of the many things Grace and I discuss on a regular basis is our own cooking adventures. I know that she loves to experiment with creating her own delicious recipes, so I asked her to do a guest post while I am on vacation. So, without further adieu, here she is:


Since Stephie is out of town, she kindly offered this week’s blog post to me.  Also, she bribed me with a giant box of homemade Christmas cookies.  Do not judge me until you’ve tried a Baklava tart.

Soup is how I first learned to cook, and it is still one of my most favorite things to make.  The way I make soup (sauté, boil, simmer) is so basic that you can do anything with it.  I’m always on the lookout for new soup recipes, so when I saw Cauliflower Soup as the subject of a recent Fine Cooking recipe email, I was pretty excited.  Until I read the recipe.  Here it is, ready:

  1. Boil cauliflower
  2. Remove said cauliflower from water.  Place in food processor with some cauliflowery water and some butter.
  3. Push start on your food processor.

Seriously??? This is not soup, this is sad mush!  Where is the onion?  The garlic?  The meat (for those of you who are into that kind of thing)?  I come from solid Irish/Lithuanian stock, (only in Chicago, I know), and therefore I was born with the innate knowledge of how to prepare cabbages and their food-cousins.  I can tell you that this method is pretty shabby.  I have nothing against a cheap and simple meal, but that does not have to mean pitiful.  Obviously, I needed to help this soup out.

For 4 starter-sized servings of my cauliflower soup, you’ll need:

olive oil


4-5 garlic cloves, chopped

1 yellow onion, chopped

optional: 3 small potatoes of any color, chopped into 1 – 2” cubes

optional: a few strips of bacon

1 head of cauliflower, chopped, florets only: I bought an orange cauliflower the first time around and it made very pretty soup.  To deal with a whole cauliflower, cut it in half first, and then chop off the green bits and cut off the florets.

½ bottle of ale or lager of your choice (see my note below)

broth of your choice, probably about 3-4 cups

¼ cup shredded cheese, not parmesan

dry dill (start with 1/8 tsp and add more to your taste) – or fresh if you have it!

mustard powder (start with 1/8 tsp and add more to your taste)

salt and pepper

an immersion blender; or a regular blender, a ladle, an apron, and patience.

1.) Boil or steam your potatoes until they are al dente and not quite all the way cooked. (If you wanted to add bacon, this would be the time to do it.  Chop it into small bits and sauté it in your soup pan.  Once it is almost cooked, but not crunchy, add the garlic and onion, butter if needed (not the olive oil), and proceed to step 2.)

2.) In a separate large soup pot, sauté the garlic, onion, and cauliflower in olive oil and butter over medium/low heat – it is too high if your garlic starts getting brown.  Once the onions start getting soft and translucent (about 10 minutes), add enough broth to nearly cover the vegetables and bring it to a boil.  Cover and simmer until the cauliflower is cooked.

3.) Add the potatoes to the cauliflower pot and add more broth to cover them.

4.) Blend the soup, using the method of your choice.  If you are using a regular blender, do this in SMALL BATCHES.  Remember science class?  Heat rises and expands.  I have learned the hard way that hot soup exploding out of the blender is not as fun as it sounds.

5.) Turn the heat to medium/low and add the beer.  It will fizz.  Just stir it in and let it come to a simmer.  Simmer about 5 minutes.

6.) Stir in the cheese, a bit at a time, letting the bit you added melt in before adding more.  Stir this constantly.

7.) Stir in the dill, mustard powder, salt, and pepper to taste.  Add more broth if you like.

8.) ENJOY!

A Note About Beer In Soup

I add beer to soup for three reasons:

  1. Since I can’t have cream, I want something in there to add some richness
  2. A good beer brings a flavor that you just can’t get from anything else
  3. I get to finish the beer while I’m making the soup (insert inappropriate Irish joke here)

Clearly, it is very important to add the right beer to your soup.  I love porters and stouts, but they only belong in rich and meaty soups – think steak and Guinness stew.  I considered putting Bell’s Best Brown Ale into this soup, but the “toasty hops” that make it so delicious would bully the other flavors.  Instead, I went with Two Brothers Domaine Du Page French Country Ale.  This is a lovely “deep amber” ale with lots of flavor but not too much oomph, so it won’t get in the way of the soup.

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