Living in the Light

Sometimes foods remind me of the sun, from the tomatoes I harvest from the backyard vegetable plot to spicy concoctions that hail from the hot places of the earth to the cup of soup I ate in a restaurant a few days ago. It was called Tomato and Fennel Bisque and was bliss in a bowl, so good I immediately went to the grocery store to get a big bulb of fennel.

When the winter sunlight slants into my kitchen from the windows and door on the back wall like it is doing now, I am warmed, energized, and made content. As my eyes follow the rectangles of light playing across the aged-to-honey wood of the cabinets, I am compelled to cook – my hands reach to open the doors, to gather ingredients onto the long expanse of island counter, to dice, chop, and mix while I stand there, also bathed in the glorious light.

So today it is Tomato and Fennel Soup, made with tomatoes preserved during a warmer season and fennel no doubt grown in a warmer climate. After getting it into the pot, it simmered at one end of the kitchen while I worked here at the other end, in the light of this good day.

Sunny Tomato and Fennel Soup
adapted from an unknown internet source
serves 6

Make a special grilled cheese sandwich as a worthy accompaniment to the soup.

2 T. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium fennel bulb, diced (cut out the small core), about 2 c. (you can save some fronds to chop for a garnish)
1 large onion, diced
2 28-oz. cans peeled whole tomatoes
1 T. lemon zest
1 t. minced fresh rosemary
heaping ¼ t. red pepper flakes (up to ½ t. if you like)
1 t. packed brown sugar
1 t. salt
2 c. water

¼ c. chopped fresh parsley
1 t. chopped fresh thyme
1 T. Pernod, optional
1/3 c. heavy cream, optional

In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat; add the garlic, fennel, and onion. Saute about 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are turning clear but are not browned. Fork the tomatoes into the pot, reserving the juices. Add the zest, rosemary, and pepper flakes; cook for about 5 minutes. Add the reserved tomato juice, the sugar and salt and the water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the fennel is very tender, about 45 minutes.

Puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor or with a stick blender. Add the parsley, thyme, and Pernod to the last batch. Return the soup to the pot and reheat as needed. Stir in the cream, if desired, but it is delicious without it.

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3 Comments

  1. Posted January 14, 2007 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Lori, the Tomato Fennel soup was wonderful – thank you so much. I think I will be making this for us in the future – unless you want to continue to supply it for us. 🙂

  2. Posted January 15, 2007 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    I’m glad you liked it. Note that the version you ate contained more rosemary and red pepper flakes than the version I posted here, so ramp those up (to 1 T. and 1 t. respectively) if you want to duplicate it.

  3. Posted January 15, 2007 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    Guess that means I have to make my own soup…

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