soup: because it's friggin' cold out there. friday, i threw a little dinner party with my usual interpretations and extemporizations on thai. which is to say, when life (or italy) takes away the limes, what are you left with? my usual source for limes was sadly out, but i made do with lemons. fortunately, the town's fishmonger came through for me for the first time ever and actually had raw shrimp in the shop (that cost €36/kilo, but that's another thing entirely). so i peeled the shrimp and tossed the heads and shells in the pot with sliced shallots and ginger as the aromatics, a handful of the dried kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass i brought back from london and generous dose of fish sauce. (okay, i cheated and added a little tom yum paste too. but that was just a flavor booster. swear.) after adding chicken stock and allowing it to get going for a while, i then tossed in some chopped tomato and mushrooms (alas, no oyster mushrooms that day) and then when ready to serve, i turned off the heat and tossed in the raw shrimp. and yes, i managed to forget the cilantro, which is just wrong, wrong, wrong. but it seemed okay, if less floral than the straight-up lime version. and then yesterday, i was tapped to make soup for another dinner get-together, with the requisite that it be ovo-lacto vegetarian. yes, a challenge, if you know what the insides of my fridge and pantry are like. so this is what i came up with: i started off with a mirepoix of onions, carrots and caulfilower stems and let that get really soft in some butter and olive oil. i added maybe a quarter of a bottle of sardinian vermentino (because that's what i had open in the way of whites) and let all those little guys get to know each other for a while before adding chopped up florets from half a head of cauliflower and a few already par-boiled potatoes i'd had sitting in the fridge. and what did i do with the other half of the head? i cut it into 1/2" slices and roasted those in the oven until they got all nutty and brown and oh-so-delicious. i puréed the soup with the immersion blender sort of cursorily to maintain some texture and chunkiness, and then when it came time to plate, i poached an egg for each bowl, laid that on the bottom with the roasted cauliflower, ladled the soup on top and then sprinkled some piment d'espelette on top. and yes, i'll confirm that it wasn't altogether shabby. might be one of my best soups ever, in fact. i only wish i'd managed to get the egg to float, because, come on, who doesn't like to see a poached egg on top of whatever they're eating?


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