Sunday, February 8, 2015

tomato soup with two fennels

I am having a bit of a moment with A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg.

Before The Never-Ending Flu of 2015 struck a couple weeks ago, I made espresso-walnut toffee, stewed prunes with citrus and cinnamon, and fennel salad with Asian pear and Parmesan.*

Now, A Homemade Life is due back at the library and I'm finally getting over The Never-Ending Flu of 2015, so I thought I could sneak in one more recipe before returning it  and before I go out and buy the book. (I am very strict about not buying cookbooks until I've a taken them out of the library at least three times. I'm ready to commit.)

I thought a pot of soup would be good to have on hand this week, and the Italian store has been wooing me with its cheap, fresh fennel bulbs. So I pulled out a couple cans of San Marzano tomatoes, and set about making Sunday lunch.

This soup has two fennels  those luminous crisp bulbs and crunchy little fennel seeds. It makes for a hearty soup, especially considering it could be vegan if you use water instead of chicken broth. The sliced fennel softens but keeps its shape and every so often you get a fennel seed like a jewel of intense anise flavour on your spoon.

We ate ours with toasted bread with homemade garlic butter and Parmesan, and it made for a fine post-recovery Sunday lunch.

And if you're wondering what I want to try next from A Homemade Life? Pistachio cake with honeyed apricots, buckwheat pancakes, fruit-nut balls, and coeur à la crème with raspberry purée. To name a few.

* We actually made that salad three times in five days. What can I say? It's a fennel and Asian pear revelation.

one year ago: chocolate coconut macaroons
two years ago: Dutch babies and turning 3
three years ago: gumdrop cake and turning 2
four years ago: whisky marmalade
five years ago: creamy celeriac soup and muesli

tomato soup with two fennels
very slightly adapted from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
serves 6  8

3 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, quartered and sliced thinly
2 medium fennel bulbs (about 11/4 pounds), trimmed, quartered from root to stalk, and sliced thinly  and if there are fennel fronds, chop them finely and set them aside to garnish
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with a string*
2 tsp. fennel seeds
2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes, best quality you can get
water or chicken stock
3/4 tsp. sea salt or to taste**
very small dollop honey, to taste
a splash or two of red wine vinegar

Heat a large Dutch oven up over medium heat. Pour the olive oil in. Add the onion and fennel and stir. Stirring occasionally, cook for 5  6 minutes, until the onion starts to soften. Stir the garlic in and cook another 5  7 minutes, stirring often, until the onion is very soft. Stir the thyme and fennel seeds in and cook about 2 minutes, until you can smell them.

Pour the two cans of tomatoes in. Fill one can with water or chicken stock (I used chicken stock) and stir in. Bring to a steady simmer, and cook uncovered for about 45 minutes, until it tastes like soup and the fennel is softer but still holds its shape.

Add some salt and taste. Add more salt if necessary. Add a very small dollop of honey and a splash of red wine vinegar. Taste and decide if it needs any more salt, honey or vinegar. Add the reserved fennel fronds. Serve.

* Molly calls for 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves chopped, but I find stripping thyme stalks to be the most tedious task in the world. You could, if you like that sort of thing.
** I just got a bag of very inexpensive sel gris and tried it  worked very well

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