Really, it seems that whenever I go to farmer's markets, my mind quickly wanders into the land of soups. I see all of the fresh produce and I can't help but envision a big pot of scented soup with some sort of rustic crusty bread to go along with it.
The other weekend, my cousin and I checked out a new farmer's market here in Houston. This one is called "Midtown Farmer's Market". It was a sweet discovery but it so happened there was more to discover there than the little market.
This market almost acts like a welcoming party to a famous restaurant in Houston...T'afia. I had heard of this restaurant and was delighted to see that we had landed right in front of it. In fact, on Saturdays, the owner, Monica Pope sets up an outdoor kitchen in the front of the restaurant. There she was, right there, instructing everyone on the dish she was cooking. She prepares all sorts of delicious dishes and gives a cooking lesson to anyone eager to learn.
Her restaurant specializes in cooking with local ingredients that she incorporates into her dishes. I wondered about the cute name, T'afia. I went to her blog and learned more about this unique name.
T'afia comes from the creole word "ratafia", which is a fortified wine made with seasonal produce. The word t'afia is also used to mean a toast "to your health". What a wonderful and fitting name!
The mood of this market was so different from other markets in Houston. There were stalls selling fresh fruits, vegetables, candles, and funky clothing.
This market almost seemed like a "pocket market", especially there to provide for the people in that area. However, a curious line wound its way under overhanging pavilions and a very diverse crowd of people stood waiting. For what? As you might have guessed, they were all waiting to eat in the restaurant T'afia.
I knew we didn't have time to try out this restaurant today but I did want to check it out further...on the inside perhaps. Look at the line of people waiting to eat there! This is Houston, Texas. It is hot outside!
I didn't want to be rude but you see I have this over-riding curious nature about me that gets away from me and leads me to often get overly excited about new discoveries. I just "had" to see inside.
Yes, I did manage to slip inside (apologizing to the people first in line and promising that I was not "butting"). How juvenile, I actually used the word "butting". No wonder the group at the door looked at me funny. A grown woman promising not to..."butt".
The inside of the restaurant is fabulous. The colors and artwork were vibrant and powerful, the energy was buzzing. Food was flying back and forth from the kitchens. T'afia is definitely a place I would love to come back and try out. Something to definitely plan for another weekend with Patrick perhaps.
First things first, however. The sun was burning hotter and it was time to head home. I was still dreaming of soups. I had recently come across a recipe for a Butternut Squash and Orange Cauliflower Soup. After making some fun fashion purchases at the market outside T'afia it was time to go home and make this soup.
I really never thought I would find the orange cauliflower called for in the recipe. I had never heard of it or noticed it in the markets. Lo and behold, the minute I walked into my produce section of my local grocery store, there sat ... orange cauliflower. Go figure. I was curious about why and how it has become orange so if you are interested here is a link to an article I found in Saveur magazine.
This soup might just define "soup perfection" for me. I really did enjoy the wonderful robust flavors of this one. I like butternut squash very much and blending it into soups is just how I like to eat it.
The recipe called for toasted pumpkin seeds on top of the soup. While that does sound delicious, I didn't have any. I crushed up some smoked almonds and that tasted really good. The saltiness of the spices used on the smoked almonds added to the flavors of the cauliflower and squash. The color of this soup is a beautiful deep sultry orange.
I decided that I need to feature more soups on "Snippets". We do eat a fair number of soups during the week. Typically, they are just thrown together from leftovers but often, that is the best kind.
On the weekend, we'll fix something a bit more elaborate, a barbecue or pasta dish, but during the week, it can often be soups and bread combinations. I never tire of trying out soup varieties.
Butternut Squash and Orange Cauliflower Soup
(recipe adapted from Cannelle and Vanille blog)
2 Tbs olive oil
1 medium leek, washed, quartered and diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 carrots, medium dice
1 orange cauliflower, chopped
1 small butternut squash, peel and medium diced
1 qt chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups water
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
toasted pumpkin seeds
purple basil oil, optional
In a large stock pot, sauté the leek, garlic and carrots with the olive oil for about 5 minutes. Add the cauliflower and butternut squash and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the stock, water and salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and cook for about 25 minutes until tender.
Puree the soup with a blender. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
Serve with a drizzle of purple basil oil, toasted pumpkin seeds (I used crushed smoked almonds) and micro greens.