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Save up, use up cauliflower stems in cheesy soup

An entire head of cauliflower can make a meatless meal, suggested in this this blog’s previous post.

The dish definitely was a departure from most cauliflower recipes that, lamentably, use only the florets. Much like cooks’ treatment of broccoli, the stems simply go in the trash or compost.

I made a conscious choice several years ago to stop wasting so much of a vegetable usually purchased by weight and now save broccoli stems for stir-fry dishes and soups. As most cooks — even the least intuitive — recognize, soup is the perfect vehicle for leftovers, scraps, odds and ends and basically anything else in your fridge in danger of going to waste.

Get even thriftier and start your soup with homemade stock distilled from bones and vegetable tops and trimmings. That’s been the practice of frugal cooks for time out of mind, most recently echoed by Chicago Tribune writer James P. DeWan, who offered this cauliflower soup as a starting point.

Cheesy Cream of Cauliflower Soup

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter

1/2 large onion, peeled and cut into medium dice

2 ribs celery, cut into medium dice

1 1/2 pounds cauliflower, roughly chopped

1/2 cup flour

2 quarts chicken broth, plus more as needed

1/2 to 1 pound grated sharp cheddar

1/2 cup heavy cream, heated to near boiling on stovetop or in microwave

Salt, white pepper and red pepper flakes, as needed

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter Add the onion, celery and cauliflower; cook, stirring, until onions are translucent, for 3 to 5 minutes.

Stir in the flour to form a roux. Continue cooking, stirring, to get rid of floury flavor, for 3 to 4 minutes.

Increase heat and stir in the chicken broth. Heat to a boil, stirring and scraping bottom. Then reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender, for 10 to 15 minutes. Continue stirring and scraping bottom every couple of minutes to prevent sticking and scorching.

Remove from heat; carefully puree in batches in a blender. Return soup to a clean pot; place over medium-high heat to rewarm.

Stir in the cheese until incorporated. Stir in the hot cream.

Add the salt and white pepper as needed; garnish with the red pepper flakes. Serve immediately.

Makes 12 cups.

Tribune News Service photo