Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club

The Olive Oil Hunter News #68

Creamiest Cauliflower Soup Recipe, Spotlight on Cayenne Pepper, Roux—The Classic Thickening Agent, Rethinking Anxiety, and The Latest Fitness Trends

February always finds me going through my repertoire of rich and hearty soups, so warming and so easy to turn into a meal with a salad and crusty bread for dipping in extra virgin olive oil. A less healthy aspect of winter is that we often find ourselves hunkering down indoors, not getting the exercise we need. Good news: The top trends in fitness don’t always require that you leave your home. I’m also sharing advice from noted author and neuroscientist Dr. Wendy Suzuki—her latest science-based book is about conquering anxiety, an emotion almost everyone faces.

The Creamiest Cauliflower Soup

  • Creamiest Cauliflower Soup The Creamiest Cauliflower Soup

    Roasting cauliflower adds great depth of flavor to this velvety soup enhanced with cheddar cheese and a hint of heat from cayenne. 


    • 1 large head of cauliflower
    • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
    • 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
    • 2 cups milk
    • 4 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded
    • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 cup homemade or low-sodium canned chicken broth, more as needed (okay to substitute water)


    Step 1

    Preheat your oven to 375°F. Core the cauliflower and break it into the florets. Transfer them to a large baking sheet and toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Roast for 45 to 60 minutes, until tender and slightly browned. Remove from the oven and set aside, reserving a few small florets to use as garnish.

    Step 2

    Start the soup by making a roux: Heat a large saucepan and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When hot, sprinkle in the flour and whisk quickly, letting the mixture cook for 5 minutes until bubbling. Slowly whisk in the milk in batches, bringing the mixture to a low boil after each addition. Next, whisk in the shredded cheese and stir until melted and fully incorporated—it should be thick. Add the cayenne and black pepper and remove from the heat.

    Step 3

    In a blender, process the cauliflower, cheese mixture, and chicken broth until smooth (you may need to do this in batches). Transfer back to the saucepan, and slowly reheat before serving. If the soup is too thick, whisk in more broth (or water) as needed. To serve, ladle into bowls and top with the reserved roasted florets.

    Yields 4 servings

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Cayenne Pepper

Healthy Ingredient Spotlight

Get a kick from cayenne pepper

These bright-red skinny peppers are a snap to grow, even indoors. I like to air dry a batch, grind them up, and put the flaky powder in a pepper shaker to use whenever I want to rev up the spice in a dish. Of course, you can simply buy cayenne pepper powder, though it will be somewhat milder. 

Even though cayenne is mostly used in pinches, it still provides snippets of vitamins A, C, K, and B6, plus many other plant compounds, including antioxidants. According to the Cleveland Clinic, capsaicin, which gives peppers their heat, helps protect against inflammation, helps some people with their digestion rather than giving them the heartburn usually associated with spicy foods, and might enhance the good bacteria needed for a healthy colon. If you’ve ever sneezed when sprinkling it, you know that it can also help clear congestion. 

Cayenne is a wonderful ingredient used in so many cuisines, but don’t limit it to savory foods—rev up your next cup of hot chocolate or coffee with a sprinkle!

Healthy Kitchen Nugget: Roux

Healthy Kitchen Nugget

Fast and furious roux

Made with equal amounts of fat and flour, a roux is a classic thickening agent used to easily turn a liquid, such as pan drippings or even milk, into sauces and gravies. It’s the perfect medium in which to melt cheese without scorching it—as long as you keep your whisk moving! French-inspired roux use butter, but I prefer olive oil for most recipes that require a roux—it’s healthier and tastier. For creamy soups and sauces, the roux is cooked just long enough so that the flour is no longer raw. With recipes like gumbo, it will cook until it turns a deep mahogany, which can take up to 20 minutes with constant whisking. And every roux represents a great opportunity to use whole wheat or white whole wheat flour—both are milled in ways that preserve most of the grain’s nutrients. 

For Your Best Health: Rethinking Anxiety

For Your Best Health

Rethinking everyday anxiety

Anxiety can get the better of us, even when everything is going well. It can also affect both physical and emotional health. The latest book from NYU neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki, PhD, Good Anxiety: Harnessing the Power of the Most Misunderstood Emotion (Atria/Simon&Schuster), explains how you can turn the tables on anxiety by facing it, understanding it, and taking action to prevent a perceived threat, rather than allowing it to keep you stuck. 

Anxiety was helpful when our cave-dwelling ancestors had to react to life-and-death situations. Even though we don’t face the same kind of threats they did, our brains still react the same way—whether the threat is real or something we imagine. As Dr. Suzuki points out, these days it’s more the threats we imagine that cause worry and sleepless nights. 

The first step to defuse the anxiety is to quiet it, either by getting your body moving—with a walk outdoors, for instance—to activate positive neurochemicals in your brain or with deep breathing to activate the parasympathetic nervous system that controls the body’s ability to relax. Just 5 to 10 minutes of either activity can help. 

Next, it’s time to try to understand why you’re feeling anxious—to find out what’s causing the anxiety. It might be something within your control, like a work deadline, or something deeper, like the fear of public speaking. In either case, the third step is to come up with an action plan, a to-do list to turn anxiety from bad to good and be productive instead of ruminating. For example, to meet the work deadline, steps might include carving out set blocks of time when you’ll focus only on the components of the project, no distractions, or finding a partner you can collaborate with. To overcome a fear of public speaking, you might tap into therapy for tools that enable you to give a speech despite your worries. By completing the to-do’s you come up with, you help resolve the anxiety and become more productive as a result, according to Dr. Suzuki.

Fitness Flash: 2022 Exercise Trends

Fitness Flash

Get on trend with exercise

We all know the dilemma—you want to move more but it’s hard to get started! For the past 16 years, the editors of the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health & Fitness journal have compiled an annual list of the top fitness trends based on responses to an electronic survey from thousands of fitness professionals around the world. To get energized, look at the top trends for 2022, pick one that excites you, and take the plunge.

1. Wearable technology. Fitness or activity trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors, and GPS tracking devices from names like Apple, Polar, Fitbit, Samsung, and Jawbone are a great way to keep track of your steps. Set a target, and as you watch the daily number go up, you’ll become more motivated to reach and exceed your goal. Counting calories burned and reminders to stand up every hour are other functions that will encourage movement. Blood pressure, oxygen saturation, body temperature, respiratory rate, and electrocardiogram readings will keep you on top of any health issues as well.

2. Home gyms. Just because you’re hunkered down at home doesn’t mean you can’t get in a workout. A home gym can mean a basic stationary bike or one with all the bells and whistles. There are options to suit every budget.

3. Outdoor activities. Get outside when you can. Small group walks, bike rides, and hikes have zoomed up from 25th in popularity in 2010, the first year they were ranked, to the 3rd spot in large part due to the idea that exercising outdoors during the pandemic is safer than in a commercial gym. While you can look for organized events with a group leader, it’s easy enough to put together your own team of friends and family.

4. Strength training with free weights. Whether you use barbells, kettlebells, dumbbells, medicine balls, or even high-tension bands, building muscle is key to good health, and is especially essential once we start to lose muscle in our 30s. You might add an all-in-one weight training unit to your home gym—it takes up little space but lets you target all major muscle groups. But it’s important to get proper instruction from a trainer—perhaps virtually—to learn correct form and progress safely and effectively. 

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Lentil Soup

You likely have everything you need in your pantry to make this hearty and filling soup. Feel free to use green French lentils or the more common (and less expensive) brown variety. Blending a portion of the soup gives it a creamy texture.


  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled, then pressed or minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 large can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, lightly drained
  • 1 cup brown or green lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup chopped fresh collard greens or kale, tough ribs removed
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice (1/2 to 1 medium lemon), to taste


Step 1

Warm the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the chopped onion and carrot and cook, stirring often, until the onion has softened and is turning translucent, about 5 minutes.

Step 2

Add the garlic, cumin, curry powder and thyme. Cook stirring constantly, about 30 seconds. Add the diced tomatoes and cook for a few more minutes, stirring often.

Step 3

Pour in the lentils, broth and the water. Add 1 teaspoon of salt, a pinch of red pepper flakes and freshly ground black pepper. Raise heat and bring the mixture to a boil, then partially cover the pot and reduce the heat to maintain a
gentle simmer. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but still hold their shape.

Step 4

Transfer 2 cups of the soup to a blender. Securely fasten the lid, protect your hand from steam with a tea towel placed over the lid, and purée the soup until smooth. Pour the puréed soup back into the pot.

Step 5

Add the chopped greens and cook for 5 more minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Taste and season with more salt, pepper and/or lemon juice until the flavors really sing. For spicier soup, add another pinch or two of red pepper flakes. Drizzle with olive oil.

Step 6

Add the chopped greens and cook for 5 more minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Taste and season with more salt, pepper and/or lemon juice until the flavors really sing. For spicier soup, add another pinch or two of red pepper flakes. Drizzle with olive oil.

Serves 4 — Recipe adapted from

Calabrian Pumpkin Soup

Simple but sublime is the pumpkin soup my Merry Band of Tasters and I were served when visiting the Librandi family, one of Calabria’s outstanding olive oil producers. “Mama” Librandi shared the recipe with me.


  • 1 3-pound pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled, with seeds and membranes removed 
  • 2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 2 tablespoons water 
  • Sea salt
  • Croutons for garnish (see the “Healthy Ingredient Spotlight” below) 


Step 1

Using a sturdy knife, cut the pumpkin or butternut squash into roughly 1.5” cubes. Do the same with the potatoes.

Step 2

In a medium saucepan, combine the pumpkin, potatoes, the 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and the water. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender—50 to 60 minutes.

Step 3

Transfer to a blender jar and purée until smooth (don’t fill the blender more than half full—work in batches if necessary). Salt to taste.

Step 4

Divide the soup between warmed soup bowls. Drizzle generously with additional olive oil, and garnish with croutons. 

Yields 6 appetizer or 4 main course servings

Squash and Carrot Soup

This dish is easy to make yet tastes complex with layers of flavor and, even better, is also comforting on a cold day. I recommend roasting your vegetables—before puréeing them—for maximum flavor and enhanced natural sweetness.


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 pounds squash, such as butternut, acorn, or Hubbard, halved, seeded, and cut into large pieces
  • 4 large carrots, scrubbed and quartered
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1-1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth, homemade or low-sodium canned
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, preferably Vietnamese, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Yields 6 servings.


Heat your oven to 425°F. Coat a large baking sheet with the olive oil and add all the vegetables, with the squash pieces skin side up. Roast for 30 minutes, flip the vegetables with a spatula, and roast for another 20 minutes. Once the vegetables are cool enough to handle, scrape all the squash flesh from its skin and transfer to your food processor along with the carrots, onions, 1 cup of the broth, and the spices. Pulse a few times, adding more liquid as needed until it reaches a purée consistency. Taste and add more cinnamon and/or nutmeg as desired.