Rethinking January

January 17, 2013

As an almost lifelong resident of Seattle, January was always my least favorite month.  I always felt a huge let down after the holidays and facing 31 days of rain and cold always put me in a bad mood.  The fact that the sun set around 4pm didn’t help and it certainly didn’t help that we couldn’t actually see the sun when it did set.  I always have had the perspective that it was so much worse in other parts of the country, places where you could actually freeze if you went outside, or you couldn’t go outside at all.  But usually those frosty places had this thing called spring that you could look forward to.  Thawing, sunshine, warmer temperatures.  Seattle often didn’t have that thing called spring.  Winter would just go on and on and it would get light later but it would still be cold and rainy.  Finally in July, or maybe August, summer would start.  So you can see why January could be particularly cruel.  With no guarantee of spring, 31 days can feel a lot longer.

Things have changed.  We live in Oakland now.  I don’t think it has rained once in January.  I wake up everyday to sunshine.  I’m not quite sure what to do with that.  I find myself worrying that something is wrong, why is the sun shining again??  It has been cool, crisp, and beautiful.  We are going to creep up into the mid-60’s this weekend and that, my friends, is practically like summer to this Seattle girl.  I haven’t been wearing my multiple pairs of boots and I’ve only worn my down jacket, the one I lived in from October to May last year, a handful of times.  It’s weird.  And wonderful.

Why all this talk about the weather?  Well, food is so connected to how you feel.  I’ve always listened to what I crave, beyond french fries and brownies, and tried to cook according to what sounds good.  Salads and light pastas are what I want in summer, green! green! green! in spring, roasted root vegetables and hearty soups sound best in winter.  What do you do when you no longer feel the need to roast everything?  When you don’t turn on your oven to bake but also to warm up your kitchen?  When soup sounds good but isn’t a full-on I-need-something-warm-in-my-belly-this-instant?

Well, you still make soup.  As a card-carrying member of the Soup Lovers Society, soup always sounds good to me.  I even like it in summer, either a cold one or a hot one served barely warm.  This lovely addition to my repertoire is the type that can be served year round.  It is hearty enough to serve as a main course with a delicious salad, and pretty enough to serve in small bowls as the start to an elegant dinner.  I love the smooth texture of perfectly blended soup but if it is going to be dinner, I need to chew.  Here we have a silky smooth spiced cauliflower base with bits of millet and bright green peas to keep it texturally interesting.  It has a wonderful creamy mouth feel without any cream.

Finally, I have become completely obsessed with these super spicy chiles that my friend Allison introduced me to.  Sicilian Pepperoncinis.  Eating dinner at her house, we sprinkled them over a delicious homemade lasagne and as we did so, she warned us, “Those are super spicy!”  Randy and I nodded our heads because we like super spicy and then WHOA! those are super spicy!  I had to have some!  So Allison, Denise, and I make a pilgrimage to Boulette’s Larder in the Ferry Building in the big city and ate really expensive soup (not as good as the one this post is about) and bought chiles.  Which I am grinding in a mortar and pestle and sprinkling on everything.  I think this soup tastes amazing with some spice but you can easily leave it off.

One Year Ago:  Pizza with Leeks, Smoked Mozzarella, and Eggs, Gingerbread-White Chocolate Blondies
Two Years Ago:  Gingerbread with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting, Baked Tofu with Peppers and Olives
Three Years Ago:  Oatmeal Carmelitas, Chunky Vegetable Pot Pie
Four Years Ago:  Milk Chocolate Frosted Layer Cake

Curried Cauliflower Soup
Adapted from Food and Wine
Serves 4

I have puréed this soup in a blender and also with an immersion blender.  The blender will give you that silky smooth texture but the millet breaks that up, so save on mess and use an immersion blender if you have one.  You might find that you don’t want to add all the millet to the soup pot. 

½ cup millet
1 cup water
Kosher or sea salt
Olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
One 2-pound head of cauliflower, cut into florets
6 cups vegetable stock
2 cups peas, fresh or frozen
Crushed red pepper flakes, for sprinkling (optional)

In a medium saucepan, combine the millet with the water and a pinch of salt.   Bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer over moderately low heat until the millet is tender, about 20 minutes.  Set aside.

Place a large saucepan, or a Dutch oven, over medium heat.  Drizzle in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan and add the onions with a large pinch of salt.  Cook over moderate heat until softened and browning in places,  stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic, cumin, coriander, tumeric, cayenne, and another pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add the cauliflower and the stock.  Bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce the heat to moderately low, and simmer the soup until the cauliflower is very tender, about 15 minutes.

Working in batches, carefully purée the soup in a food processor or a blender.  (Or use an immersion blender directly in the pot.)  Return the soup to the pot and add the cooked millet and the peas.  Rewarm gently over moderate heat.  Season with salt, if needed.  Sprinkle with red pepper flakes (if using) and serve.

(This soup, like most, is great the next day.  It gets pretty thick with the millet absorbing the liquid but I didn’t not mind that at all.  If you want a soupier consistency, just add some water or broth when you reheat it.)


  1. I’m a card carrying soup member!!! I wish my husband was as well (he’ll “tolerate” it). I’m glad you posted the recipe for this and I’m happy to see millet as an ingredient. I’ll be making this soon. I’m jealous of your warm sunny weather, but I have to say that in Vancouver, we’ve been having sunny but chilly weather. I’ll take that over rain any day!!

    Comment by kickpleat — January 17, 2013 @ 8:37 pm

  2. Yes, I am addicted to those chilies as well after a meal at Allison’s house! Delicious …. sprinkle on everything!!!

    Comment by Denise — January 17, 2013 @ 8:45 pm

  3. I always forget just how tied to the weather my taste buds are until I look back at the blog and you can really see the progression into comfort food as the weather gets colder. I’m with you though on eating soup year round. I love it. But it does need a little substance if it’s gonna be dinner. I have more millet in my apartment than I know what to do with so this is certainly going to be made soon. hope I can find those peppers!

    Comment by Joanne — January 18, 2013 @ 2:16 am

  4. This is my kind of soup! After eating soup for two weeks straight (due to illness in our casa), I might wait a week or two to make it, but we *are* cold and wet so I just might not!

    Comment by Kathleen — January 18, 2013 @ 4:51 am

  5. I love that there is no cream in this soup and those pretty peas!
    Will be making this soon…………’s been very grey and rainy here in the tri-state area. Wish I were in Oakland (or Paris or Belize!). xo

    Comment by stacey snacks — January 18, 2013 @ 8:18 pm

  6. oh yum, I can’t say I’ve ever put millet in soup. I love it. I am touch and go with soup, likely because Hugh doesn’t care too much for it and I don’t like going to the trouble for just me. This looks unique and light and I’m always looking for new ways with cauliflower. Happy to have you in the sunshine state :)

    Comment by sara — January 19, 2013 @ 1:57 am

  7. I have to say, I completely understand the winter-confusion issue. We just had 80 degree weather for two days in a row, but it’s time for January food! This soup sounds great for any season, and I’m fascinated with those chiles now. I’ll be looking for them.

    Comment by lisaiscooking — January 26, 2013 @ 3:38 pm

  8. This looks perfect for right now since the weather’s changed. Lovely and cozy :)Found you through a feature on The Kitchn.

    Comment by Emma — September 17, 2013 @ 8:33 pm

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