Cauliflower Soup with Cougar Gold Cheddar and Toasted Hazelnuts
This hearty, extremely lovely soup combines three Northwest ingredients: cauliflower, hazelnuts and Cougar Gold, a rich, sharp cheddar cheese similar to Tillamook that was developed and is sold by Washington State University. It melts beautifully. Start by melting 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add 2 leeks, halved lengthwise, cleaned and chopped and 1 chopped onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes.
Place one 1-pound head of cauliflower, cut into florets, 2 chopped carrots and 1 quart chicken stock into a Dutch oven. Add the sautéed onions and leeks. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. In batches, puree the vegetable mixture in a blender. Return the pureed soup to the Dutch oven. Stir in 1 cup half-and-half. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot, sprinkled with 1 cup shredded Cougar Gold or Tillamook cheddar cheese and ½ cup chopped toasted hazelnuts.