A couple years ago, I read a piece by Shauna James Ahern about her family's weekly dinner template, with Mondays for meat and potatoes, Tuesdays as kids' choice night, soup and salad on Wednesdays, taco Thursdays, and so on. Like everything that Shauna writes, it's a beautiful reflection, about memory and ritual and family. But I was hesitant to adopt a similar template for our dinners. My life already has so many layers of routine: runs on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays; my yoga class on Mondays; my blog post on Wednesdays; the grocery store trip on Saturday morning; the Friday date nights that we plan weeks in advance. I didn't want to lock myself into pasta Monday and tofu Tuesday, and eliminate the last bit of spontaneity from my existence.
But as Shauna points out, routine can be freeing. Spontaneous meal planning (how's that for irony?) became a slog through my nutritional needs, Mike's preferences, the list of pantry ingredients to use up, and the aforementioned commitments to running, yoga, and blogging. I needed some sort of structure to make planning easier so that I wasn't starting from scratch every Saturday morning. Instead of a nightly meal template, what works best for me is picking out one soup recipe and one tofu dish per week. Narrowing two meals down gets me over the hump of indecision--finishing is always easier once you've actually started.
I've been relying on a handful of recipes from the archives for my tofu dish of the week: sesame pan-seared tofu, broiled tofu steaks with jalapeno vinaigrette, coconut curry tofu, and barley bowl with roasted broccoli and tofu. There's more variation with my soup selection: often a slow-cooker recipe for Wednesday night, sometimes a more involved recipe for Saturday evening. But a warm bowl soup has become a weekly ritual and a welcome one for winter.
This particular curried cauliflower chowder is particularly amenable to winter in Minnesota, since it relies on frozen (corn and cauliflower) and long-storing (potatoes) vegetables. Cilantro adds a welcome pop of freshness, the curry provides some extra warmth, and a squeeze of lime pulls everything together. The thick, creamy texture and the chunks of cauliflower and potatoes make the soup filling, and since the creaminess comes from coconut milk and pureed cauliflower it also happens to be vegan.
There's a nifty trick in this recipe I hadn't seen before--when sauteing the garlic and ginger, you use the the cream skimmed from the coconut milk in lieu of oil. Just remember not to shake the can of coconut milk before opening to ensure that you have a nice thick layer of cream.
Adapted from the Kitchn
- (13.5 ounce) can unsweetened, full-fat coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups), divided
- (16 ounce) bag frozen cauliflower florets, divided
- 12 ounces baby red potatoes, cut into 1/4 inch pieces (3-4 potatoes, about 2 1/2 cups)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 cup frozen corn kernels
- lime wedges, for serving
- chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
Open the can of coconut milk without shaking. Skim off 6 tablespoons of the cream and add to a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
Cook the coconut cream until bubbling. Add the ginger, garlic, and curry powder and cook until fragrant, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes. Add half of the onions and half of the cauliflower and cook until cauliflower is crisp-tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the rest of the coconut milk.
Transfer the cooked cauliflower mixture into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour the blended mixture back into the Dutch oven and add remaining onion, 1 1/2 cups water, potato, soy sauce, and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are starting to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining cauliflower and corn. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is tender, about 10 minutes.
Serve with lime wedges and cilantro.