Fennel Soup

December 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

J: This soup was entirely Erik’s idea.  In fact, when he suggested we make it, I was honestly pretty skeptical — I’d heard fennel tastes kind of like licorice, which I never liked as a child and haven’t really had the opportunity or desire to try since.  So, I wasn’t too thrilled about fennel soup, but Erik usually has good food judgment (except with spicy things, in which case don’t trust the man unless you want your tastebuds seared off), so I went with it and didn’t mention my reservations.

Best.  Decision.  Ever.  This soup was amazing.  Erik made it while I was at yoga one night, and I came home to the apartment smelling divine.  It is a really easy soup to make, and pretty cost-effective, and even if you have never touched fennel in your life you should go buy some right now and see what you have been missing.  I don’t know if the soup tasted like licorice, but if it did, then I am annoyed at my child-self for disliking it and causing me to pass up years of deliciousness.

garnished with fennel pesto!

Fennel Soup
(slightly modified from original recipe here)

1 large yellow onion, chopped roughly
4 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
2 large (or 3 medium) fennel bulbs, trimmed (fronds reserved)
4-6 c vegetable stock
1/4 c rice
Salt and pepper to taste

You will want to start by cleaning the fennel.  This can be a somewhat obnoxious process, only because the fronds are kind of huge.  If you like, you can cut off the fronds and wash them separately — that may help everything fit in your sink.  Anyway, once everything is washed, set the fronds aside; you can use them to make fennel pesto while the soup is cooking.  We’ll get to that in a bit.

kind of like weird, six-fingered hands?

Chop up onion and garlic, and then deal with the fennel in pretty much whatever way seems to make most sense to you.  This is a blended soup, so everything is going to get puréed regardless and it doesn’t really matter how pretty your chopping is here.

In a large pot, heat up some olive oil and add the onion, garlic, and fennel.  Sweat these ingredients over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes (you can add a pinch of salt here to help the process along if you want).  You want to try and make sure that nothing starts browning or caramelizing in this time, so keep an eye on the ingredients, especially the onions.  If they caramelize they will develop a slightly different flavor profile that will affect the overall flavor of the soup, and may overpower the fennel a bit.

key ingredients in the pot

Season with salt and pepper, and add enough vegetable stock to just about cover the contents of the pot.  Add the rice here as well — according to the original post, it acts as a thickening agent in the soup.  Interesting!

Incidentally, you will notice that our soup is something of a reddish color.  That is because of the stock we use — it’s much redder than most stocks, so if you use a different stock your soup will probably be much paler, sort of white/yellow/greenish.  Don’t let the color difference throw you!

starting to look soupy

Bring the soup to a boil, and then reduce it to a simmer.  Taste the broth and see how you’re doing on seasoning — adjust salt and pepper to taste if necessary.  Let the soup cook for about 20 minutes, checking and stirring intermittently.

When the soup is done simmering, it’s time to blend.  If you have an immersion blender, that’s the way to go here.  Transfer the pot to the sink if you want to be safe and have relatively easy cleanup, and blend until smooth.  Otherwise, transfer the soup in batches to a stand blender or food processer and again blend until smooth.

Now, I said earlier that you should reserve the fronds for fennel pesto.  If you’re so inclined, it’s a good idea to make this pesto while the soup is still simmering!  It’s very easy, I promise, and it adds another layer of flavor to the soup.

Fennel Pesto
1 c (ish) fennel fronds, chopped roughly
2 tsp (ish) basil (we used dried, you can use dried or fresh, but adjust amounts accordingly), chopped or torn roughly
1/4 c (ish) parsley (we used fresh — again, you can use dried or fresh, but you’ll need to adjust amounts. Also, you should probably use at least one of these herbs fresh, otherwise your pesto might be a little on the strong side), chopped or torn roughly
1/4 c Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 c pine nuts
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Basically… toss everything except the olive oil, salt, and pepper into a food processor.  Start blending, and add some olive oil a little bit at a time, blending in between (or during, if your food pro can handle that without splashing pesto everywhere) until you get to the desired consistency.  You’ll want it to be smooth, but you can decide how watery or paste-y you want it to be beyond that.  Taste and add salt and pepper as you desire.

Garnish the soup with a bit of the pesto, and grate some cheese on top if you like.  Obviously, this soup can very easily be vegan if you omit the cheese and pesto (or make cheese-less pesto? never tried, but I imagine it’s doable!).  Enjoy!

cheese-less but pesto-ed

 

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Qorma Lawand (Afghanistan)

June 29, 2012 § 2 Comments

J: Recently, one of my friends told us about United Noshes, an awesome project some people are undertaking to cook a meal from every member nation of the UN, in alphabetical order (thanks Colleen!).  We decided that it sounded like a terrific idea.  It’s always hard to try and come up with new exciting dishes that aren’t just variations on stuff we already make, so having 193 essentially pre-planned things to cook is awesome.  We are starting off here with Afghanistan, and I will say right off the bat that this yogurt-nut curry is getting added to our regular rotation.  It was absurdly delicious.

new comfort food

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Roasted Red Pepper Pesto Pasta

May 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

J: So, after a month-long hiatus in which EVERYTHING in the world was happening, thereby preventing us from being responsible bloggers, we come back to you with the assurance that no, we have not abandoned the blog — and here is an extremely alliterative recipe to make up for our absence!

I think I made this for the first time one or two years ago and since then it’s been something of a staple for us.  Recently we were trying to find the recipe and realized that we had never posted it here — so, obviously, that had to happen.  This is really easy and if you are anywhere close to as much of a pasta-holic as I am, you’ll love it.

pasta preparation #1

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Sweet Potato and Asparagus with Lemon

March 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

J: A couple of weeks ago over my spring “break,” I had a conference to attend out of town, so Erik went home to visit his parents.  While I was enjoying sunny Puerto Rico, he got the tail end of winter and was able to cook some new delicious recipes, which he told me all about and promised that we would make together soon.  This is the first one we made, and even for 70+ degree weather, it was delightful.  Honestly it is sort of what I had been hoping for when we made this a few months ago (but that dish ended up being a bit on the too-spicy end for me), and I have a sneaking suspicion that because it is easy, fast, healthy, and crazy delicious, it will become a staple around here.  Seriously, with a recipe this unassuming — potatoes and asparagus! who knew?! — you will be amazed at how flavorful and filling this is, especially with a light sprinkling of cheese.

E: Don’t mind the salmon in the photo. This post is all about the sweet potato concoction on the left.

served next to some grilled salmon

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The Veggie-Lover’s Quiche

March 5, 2012 § 2 Comments

J: A couple years back, Erik introduced me to the versatility of the simple quiche.  Of course, I had eaten (and loved!) quiche before, but I suppose it never really occurred to me just how much fun you can have playing with different ingredients and flavors to make a breakfast quiche, dinner quiche, or maybe even dessert quiche if you wanted. (Also, as a side note, quiche is a really fun word.  I always want to pronounce it “kweesh” just for the lulz.)

Anyway, while we were home for the holidays this year, for one of our big meals we decided a quiche would be a perfect side-dish.  And, to have some semblance of being healthy, we decided to add a ton of vegetables to it.  That totally cancels out all the eggs and milk that go into it, right?  …right?

look at all that green!

We decided to make the crust from scratch using a simple pie dough recipe from Joy of Cooking, mostly because I will take any and every opportunity to play with dough, but if you are not so zealous about that — or simply don’t have time — you can do a simple pat-in-the-pan crust or of course buy a premade crust if you like.

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Southwest Veggie Burgers

February 24, 2012 § 4 Comments

J: While Erik and I do enjoy a good meat-burger every now and then, we are both trying to eat more vegetarian, for the health benefits as well as for the expense.  So, when we want to make burgers, we often turn to veggie burger recipes instead to get our fix.  This burger recipe is one we came up with, inspired by the ingredient list on a box of MorningStar Farms southwest veggie burgers.  We loved the burgers so much, looked at the ingredient list, and realized, hey — there’s nothing crazy in here.  We could make these!  So, we did.

with all the fixins!

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Simple Authentic* Dal

February 19, 2012 § 1 Comment

E: Now before anyone jumps down my throat here, let me clarify that title:  this was authentic. I got the recipe from my good friend Aditya by watching him prepare it a few times for dinner parties when we were in college. I wrote down what I saw, and may have adapted for one or two things that are difficult to find, but I would say this is 80-90% faithful to the original. Hopefully, Aditya himself will be reading this (I know you do check this blog from time-to-time) and can chime in if I’ve erred somewhere.

the garnish of chives is something of our own invention

Authenticity concerns aside, this recipe and I have a long and important history, and so I’m really happy to finally have taken pictures of the process so I can share them with all of you. This is the recipe that got me into cooking. When I tasted this the first time, I couldn’t believe how fantastic it was. And the process had seemed easy enough. So I learned to make it myself, and then promptly made it for everyone I could find. This was the “aha” moment for me, that interesting food could be healthy, tasty, and easily made at home.

Joanna and I have shared this dal many times. However, we often make it when we are tired and otherwise not looking to make an event of cooking. So we just haven’t gotten out a camera and photographed the process. But I picked up three recipes from Aditya during college (and I recently badgered him for some eggplant recipes that I hope to make and photograph sometime soon) and I really wanted to start getting them up on the blog. So here is the first of them. « Read the rest of this entry »

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