Place cauliflower florets and garlic cloves on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil (about 1 1/2 tablespoons) and lightly sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cracked pepper to taste. Combine together with your hands. Roast for 15-20 minutes until tender and lightly browned. Toss occasionally. (*Optional- reserve a few roasted pieces for soup topping)
In a large pot, heat remaining oil over medium heat and add onion and celery. Sauté until tender and lightly browned, about 5-6 minutes.
Add dried thyme and smoked paprika. Sauté for 30-60 seconds until fragrant.
Now add the roasted cauliflower, garlic cloves, broth, liquid smoke, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Turn heat up to get broth boiling and then turn down to a gentle simmer. Cook for 8-10 minutes, then remove from heat and remove bay leaf.
Now add the coconut milk. Using an immersion blender (or regular blender), blend until very creamy and smooth. (If the consistency is too thick for your taste, you can add a little vegetable broth to thin it out) Taste for seasoning and add more if needed. (*See notes for garnish and topping ideas).
Top with a squeeze of fresh lemon, a sprinkle of smoked paprika, a swirl of coconut milk, fresh cracked pepper, red chili pepper flakes, roasted chickpeas, vegan parmesan, fresh thyme, shredded vegan cheese, vegan sour cream or tempeh bacon.