Athena's Creamy Cauliflower Soup W/ Dukkah & Watercress Pesto / by Lindsey | Dolly and Oatmeal

i wasn't always very keen on cooking.  the truth is, that until i met frank, and he and i started dating, i didn't really enjoy the process of cooking that much.  but as our relationship progressed, the notion of cooking for someone else and pleasing their tummy and tastebuds really appealed to me.   so much so, that while frank and i grew a relationship and fell in love with each other, i simultaneously cultivated a little love affair with cooking as well.  

before we moved in together, we would take turns cooking at our respective apartments.  he would generally "cook" sandwiches, which were seriously good.  and i would plan some sort of intricate dinner like a ricotta gnocchi recipe that i had ripped from the pages of the new york times. but saturday and sunday mornings were reserved for getting up a bit early to make a batch of scones or muffins that i had bookmarked and printed out weeks before.  i would scotch tape the recipes to the my kitchen cabinets where they would become one with my little kitchen - splatters, drips, and all! maybe you would have guessed, but as mine and frank's connection grew stronger so did my love for preparing our meals.

cooking and developing recipes for a living has its considerable perks, but the past year that drive has waned a bit with having a baby.  and i have often felt that love and connection to food disipate. i've talked to some other moms about this, and i know it's not just me.  but that continual tug in two completely different directions of wanting to the best, most present mama, while also striving to be the best at your career has taken its toll. which is why every time a new cookbook shows up on my doorstep i am eternally grateful for the wonderful authors who share their stories, hearts, and kitchens with us every time fall and spring roll around.

so, today i'm cooking from a new book, cook beautiful, by athena colderone of the blog, eyeswoon. the recipes are organized by the seasons of the year, so i flipped right to the fall chapter and gathered a load of east coast autumn inspiration.  i chose to make this creamy cauliflower soup to really welcome fall into my kitchen (although, it's literally 90 degrees in LA as i'm writing this), and give you all some chilly-weather meal inspiration as well.  this cauliflower soup is a wonderfully delicious blank canvas - and you could certainly serve and eat this as is.  but athena paired it beautifully with a pistachio dukkah (a middle eastern spice and nut/seed blend), and a zesty watercress-pistachio pesto.  the dukkah added a flavorful crunch, while the pesto added a perfect bit of brightness to make an unassuming soup really shine.   just like the title, states this book is beautiful in every way.  i could see my younger self being too intimidated to cook from it just from its shear beauty, but i think it really beckons you to cook your most beautiful, push your boundaries a bit by introducing you to new ideas, and different ways of preparing a typical meal.   

big cozy hugs! xo

creamy cauliflower soup w/ dukkah & watercress pesto 

recipe from Cook Beautiful by Athena Calderone

*my notes: athena's recipe calls for heavy cream. if you don't handle dairy well, like me, then you can replace it with 1/4 cup tahini which i added to the blender during step 5.

| serves 4 |

  • 1 large head of cauliflower (about 2 pounds/910 g), cored and cut into bite-size florets
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • kosher salt
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, cut  in half lengthwise and rinsed clean
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 ounces (225 g) yukon gold potatoes (about 3), peeled and quartered
  • 3 cups (720 ml) chicken stock
  • 2/3 cup (185 ml) heavy cream
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced
  • freshly cracked pepper
  • watercress pistachio pesto, for serving
  • dukkah, for serving

watercress pistachio pesto | makes 2 cups

  • 1/3 cup (45 g) unslated pistachios, toasted, plus more for garnish
  • 1 1/2 cups (60 g) packed watercress
  • 3/4 cup (45 g) packed fresh parsely
  • 2/3 cup (165 ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup (75 ml) lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • kosher salt

dukkah | makes 3/4 cup

  • 3/4 cup (95 g) unsalted pistachios
  • 1/4 cup (40 g) sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt



  1. preheat oven to 425ยฐF (220ยฐC)
  2. spread the cauliflower florets on a baking sheet.  drizzle the generously with oil, season with salt, and toss to coat.  roast for 15 minutes, tossing the cauliflower halfway through.  continue to roast until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
  3. while the cauliflower is roasting, chop the leeks crosswise into roughly 1/4-inch (6-mm) slices.  in a medium saucepan, heat the oil and thyme over medium heat and saute the leeks until they are slightly softened, about 2 minutes.  add the garlic and cook until soft and fragrant, about 2 minutes more. 
  4. add the potatoes, stock, cream, 2 cups (480 ml) water, and the roasted cauliflower to the pot.  bring the mixture to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat and cover, cooking until the potatoes are fork-tender, 15 to 20 minutes.  once the potatoes are tender, remove the thyme stems from the mixture (the leaves should have fallen off during cooking).
  5. transfer the mixture to a blender and cover the hole of the blender top with a towel.  blend until the mixture is very smooth.  stir in the lemon juice and season with 2 teaspoons salt and some pepper.  divide the soup among four bowls and top it with lemon zest, a swirl of the watercress pesto, and a sprinkle of dukkah.


  1. in a food processor, pulse the pistachios, watercress, and parsley until coarsely chopped, about 10 pulses.  add the oil and lemon juice and process until a smooth, loose paste forms, about three 10-second pulses.  transfer the mixture to a bowl, stir in the melon zest, and season with salt.  covered in the refrigerator, with a layer of olive oil on top, the pesto will last 3 to 4 days.


  1. in a small skillet over medium-high heat, toast the pistachios for minutes, until warm.  add the sesame seeds, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds.  continue to toast for 2 to 4 minutes, or until the seeds are fragrant. transfer the mixture to a mini food processor, along with the peppercorns and salt.  pulse until the pistachios are coarsely chopped  the dukkah can be used immediately or stored in an airtight container in a cool place for up to 1 week.

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