Cauliflower soup with mushrooms and hazelnuts is a step up from your basic pureed vegetable soup. (Tom McCorkle / The Washington Post)

Cauliflower soup with mushrooms and hazelnuts is a step up from your basic pureed vegetable soup. (Tom McCorkle / The Washington Post)

A luxuriously creamy soup without a speck of dairy? If you must.

Pureed cauliflower and potato give this comforting soup its faux-creamy mouthfeel.

This nourishing bowl is like the cashmere throw of soups — cozy and comforting. Made with cauliflower that gets simmered with shallots and potato, in broth, until softened, and then blended until smooth, the soup is ultra-creamy and filling. (The potato gives it an extra layer of satisfying body.)

That lovely off-white puree becomes the canvas for a spray of toppings, which amplify its earthy, nutty flavors, while contrasting its creaminess: an exciting mix of meaty sauteed mushrooms, kissed with sherry vinegar and tossed with crunchy toasted hazelnuts and fresh parsley.

The resulting warm bowl of goodness is a first-class upgrade from your basic pureed vegetable soup.

Creamy cauliflower soup with mushroom and hazelnut topping

Note: If possible, purchase hazelnuts that have already had their skins removed. If they are not available, once you have toasted and cooled the nuts, place them on one side of a clean kitchen towel, fold the towel over the nuts and rub vigorously to remove any loose skins. It is OK if some skins remain. The soup and topping (minus the hazelnuts) may both be made up to 4 days ahead and stored in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator. (Add the hazelnuts to the topping just before serving to keep them crunchy.) The soup can be refrigerated, tightly covered, for up to 4 days.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

½ cup chopped shallots (about 4 medium shallots)

1 medium head cauliflower, cored and cut into 1-inch florets (about 6 cups)

1 (6-ounce) Yukon Gold potato, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces

4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ cup hazelnuts (see note)

4 ounces mixed mushrooms, such as cremini, shiitake and chanterelles, stemmed, sliced and coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

In a large pot over medium heat, warm 1 tablespoon of oil until shimmering. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until they have softened a bit but have not browned, about 1 minute. Add the cauliflower, potato, broth, ¾ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the cauliflower and potato are very tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth, or let cool slightly and puree in 3 to 4 batches in a regular blender.

While the soup cooks, make the topping: Place the hazelnuts in a dry medium skillet over medium heat and toast, shaking the pan frequently, until the nuts are fragrant and lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a bowl and let cool. Remove the skins if necessary (see note), then coarsely chop.

Wipe the skillet clean with a paper towel. Return the pan to the heat and warm 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they release their liquid and start to brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the vinegar. Stir in the hazelnuts, parsley, the remaining tablespoon of oil and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper.

To serve, ladle about a cup of soup into each bowl and top each with about 2 heaping tablespoons of the topping.

Makes 4 servings. Nutrition per serving: 200 calories; 14 grams total fat; 2 grams saturated fat; no cholesterol; 600 milligrams sodium; 15 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams dietary fiber; 3 grams sugar; 6 grams protein.

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