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

 

Chakhchoukha (Algeria) + Pita

September 14, 2012 § 2 Comments

J: Continuing (slowly) along our culinary voyage around the world, we next hit Algeria.  As has been the case with many of these countries, I really had very little idea of what Algerian food looked like, or what a “classic” Algerian dish might consist of.  This stew-type meal turned out to be quite delicious and comfort-food-y — I suspect it would make a great warming meal on a cold winter night.  The original recipe included chicken, but as we are trying to be a little more vegetarian (accepting that we won’t be able to get around meat in many of these international dishes), we substituted potatoes for the chicken, and it still turned out really well.

a bowl of bread and veggies

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Avocado Gazpacho

December 12, 2011 § 4 Comments

J: So, I don’t remember if I have expressed my feelings on avocados on this blog yet.  Here they are: I LOVE AVOCADOS.  They are one of my favorite foods.  I regularly used to have just an avocado, maybe with some cottage cheese or something, for a light lunch or dinner.  I would eat them every day if I could.  And so, a few weeks ago, while it was still in the 70s (ridiculous!), when Erik and I were trying to come up with an interesting soup to make, I thought of this: avocado gazpacho.  The recipe we came up with was, I think, not the best one; it was fine the first night, but the longer it was in the fridge (read: by the second night) it had a bit of a funny taste to it.  We’re both pretty sure that was the fault of the cucumber.  Simple fix: don’t add cucumber.  Otherwise, this soup was rather delightful: creamy, cool, and refreshing.

blended avocados in a bowl

I’m including here the original recipe we used, as well as an alternative suggestion we came up with after the fact: guacamole soup!  As always, feel free to add your own twist to this recipe, and let us know what you find works best for you — we want to improve on this, and welcome any suggestions. « Read the rest of this entry »

Roasted Corn and Tomato Soup

November 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

E: I’m going to (try to) make this post short and sweet. We are just back from spending the Thanksgiving holidays at my parents’ place (with a brief sojourn to see my aunt, uncle, and some of my cousins). We had some wonderful times and ate some wonderful food. But it also means we haven’t posted in a while. I apologize if this post is more slipshod than usual, but I feel like we’ve got to put something up regardless of how unqualified to write my present state of exhaustion makes me.

a really tasty soup with hearty smokyness

A few weeks ago, we wanted to make another tomato-y soup, and it was my idea to add some roasted corn. Joanna finished it off by suggesting we blend in some ricotta and serve it with some grated, smoked Gouda. This is a really great combination, with the smokiness of the cheese playing off some of the char from the tomatoes, pepper, and corn. « Read the rest of this entry »

“Chikinjiru” – Butajiru with Chicken

July 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

E: We at Nombudsman felt like we were getting into a bit of a rut in terms of creativity. The food photo blog thing has a habit of reminding one of how easy it is to slip into the rut of making practically the same thing over and over and over again. Repeated bouts of gastronomic déja vu plus a solid helping of Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto and a distinct lack of anything remotely Japanese on this blog led us to try something new, and invent our own version of butajiru (a.k.a. tonjiru i.e. miso soup with pork and lots of other stuff that miso soup doesn’t have). We aren’t really pork people, so we substituted chicken for the pork. We also found our local market to be not exactly overflowing with taro root, so we went the route of Japanese skiing soup and decided to substitute sweet potatoes. So if you are familiar with real butajiru, pardon us our liberties.

more kickass than miso

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Tomato Soup with Grilled Gouda Croutons

May 20, 2011 § 2 Comments

E: Hello and welcome to Nombudsman, the one man show. Joanna is off at a conference for a few days, so I’m here holding down the fort, trying to get a post out on time (and failing, if I remember correctly when the last post went up). In any case, I’ve put together a post on a homemade tomato soup that she and I cooked together about a month ago. I am not a tomato soup fan, and I never really have been. My father loves the classic combination of tomato soup and grilled cheese, however, so this was really done with him in mind. That said, I found this to be very far removed, in a good way,  from any tomato soup I’d had previously (with one exception:  the Harvest, in Cambridge, makes a tomato soup that, to my tastes, destroys this one, but I couldn’t tell you what they did exactly to make it different).

how tomato soup should be

I loved it. Joanna did too. For sure, there are some things we would do differently next time, but the freshly roasted tomatoes make the soup really bright and flavourful. And, if you are reading this and don’t have the time to cook up a fresh tomato soup tonight, take my advice and create yourself a smoked gouda grilled cheese. After making them for this, thinking they would be an interesting contrast to the soup, I cannot fathom why we hadn’t done grilled cheese like that before.

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Savory Chicken Soup with Greek Yogurt + Bread with Spicy Herb Butter

May 3, 2011 § 3 Comments

E: And so it is that my undergraduate thesis is basically finished, and has been presented to all the necessary persons. That’s not to say I don’t have quite a bit left to do before this year is over, but it means that the bulk of that-which-must-be-done-immediately is in fact complete, and so I will be back to posting more regularly. It is a relief to have that project off my back, but it just makes this whole graduation thing all the more surreal. I started my thesis almost a year ago, and it has occupied much of my attention, if not always my actual time, since then. I learned a lot in the process, and there’s much more I would do if I had the time, but I just did not expect to be “done” so soon.

pretty isn't it? almost a shame to eat it . . .

So back to food, as I’m sure that’s why you’ve come. This one has been sitting on my computer for several months now (the recipe and pictures, not, thank goodness, the actual food), waiting for a time when I felt I could actually write it up and do it justice. And that time is now. I came up with this recipe as a modification of the French blended soup recipe we made a while ago. I wanted to take those flavors to the next level of complexity, and give it some aesthetic touches so it doesn’t just look like a bowl of blended stuff. It had been a while since I’d made anything with yogurt sauce, so I decided to go in a Greek direction (I’m pretty sure this soup would be delicious with lamb instead of chicken, if you wanted to try something different). Instead of serving soup and a side, I decided to put the side in the soup:  a dollop of cool Greek yogurt sauce right in the middle. The slightly-spicy savory warmth of the soup contrasts beautifully with the cool, crisp cucumber and creamy yogurt. With some toasted bread and herb butter, I think it makes a delicious and complex meal, and I’d make it for just about anyone who likes soup and yogurt separately.

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