Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Carrot and Fennel Soup

I've always been intrigued by fennel, because I really like licorice (and ouzo).  I could probably devour the whole bulb plain- the texture is like celery, and fun to crunch on for a snack- but I was eager to seek out a recipe. 101 Cookbooks is always my first go-to for all dishes veggie, and where i stumbled across Carrot and Fennel Soup. Simple, elegant and tasty, this easy soup was definitely hit. Carrots and fennel give the soup an earthy feel, and a hearty serving of rice texturizes the dish. Lastly, the soup is topped with tons of shaved Parmesan, which you just can't go wrong with in a vegetable-broth based soup.

Did you know?
Fennel is actually a member of the Apiaceae family, and closely related to carrot, parsley, cumin, and dill. During the Middle Ages it was hung over doorways to drive away evil spirits. It's up to you if you want to give that a try or not. 
Fennel also is very nutritious. A unique combination of phytonutrients give way to strong antioxidant activity, plus an excellent source of vitamin C.

Carrot and Fennel Soup (I mainly stuck to the original recipe, which I printed below, but my modifications are in italics)
Yield: Serves 6. Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time: 30 minutes

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (I think 2 is sufficient)
2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed fronds reserved, thinly sliced
2 1/4 pounds / 36 ounces farmer market carrots, thickly sliced
2 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
10 cups good-tasting vegetable broth or water
salt to taste (if using broth, check the sodium serving before adding salt- its probably already very high)
3 cups / 12 oz cooked wild rice/brown rice
2 tablespoons blood orange olive oil or 5 tablespoons fresh orange juice (I used a drop of apple cider vinegar instead)
lots of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Optional: 1/3 cup thinly sliced yellow onion
Optional: 1/2 cup canned chickpeas- Heidi suggests alternately adding a poached egg for protein

Heat the olive oil in your largest soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the fennel and cook for 3-4 minutes, until softened a bit. Stir in the carrots and cook another 10 minutes, just long enough for them to soften a touch and start taking on a bit of color. Stir in the garlic and cook another 30 seconds. Stir in the broth. Bring to a simmer and simmer, covered, until the carrots are very tender, another 15-20 minutes or so. Stir in the wild rice, bring back to a simmer, taste and add more salt if needed

Remove from heat and stir in the blood orange olive oil or orange juice. Taste and add more if needed. Serve dusted, generously, with freshly grated Parmesan, and a sprinkling of the reserved fennel fronds.

"Specialty Crops: Fennel." Sustainable Farming Project. Tufts University. Web. 9 Aug. 2011. <http://nesfp.nutrition.tufts.edu/ethnic_crops/vegetable_details.php?veggieid=30>.

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