I’m still under the haziness leftover from last week’s flu spell. When I tried to get back into the kitchen to make sourdough bread, I failed. Lost in thoughts about slowing down and savoring little moments, like when Luke and David, as sick as they both were, tried to nurse me back to health as well. The team effort paid off, but it couldn’t exactly clear my head since I added a tablespoon of baking soda to the bread dough instead of a teaspoon. At least I’m feeding the portly neighborhood ravens via the compost heap. That counts for something.
The week before, I made a carrot fennel soup that knocked me sideways, like sliding into an icy stretch of road that ignites your adrenaline. What follows is a brief flash of some terrible thought or another followed by a well of gratitude. It’s a bit like that with fennel, minus the accident flash and I’ve learned how to like, if not relish it. Not really on that last part but almost. Sort of. Okay, I’m trying.
I haven’t always been so accepting of fennel, it reminds me of black licorice, which I’ve never been a fan of. Faint though, like a smeary ink drawing, the fennel adds a hint of bitter sweetness to the soup.
For the soup, I like to peel the tough outer layer of the fennel bulb then core it before cutting it into thin slivers. The carrots too should be peeled or at least well scrubbed. If you have a batch of homemade vegetable stock in the freezer, thaw it in the fridge overnight, so you’re ready to go when the soup cravings hits.
I’ll leave you with this sunny little fortune I found earlier under my chair, “Your happiness is intertwined with your outlook on life.” Well, yes. Beyond the obvious, I read it like this, Don’t let life get you down. Appreciate the jar of wilted daffodils on the table, the maple syrup stuck to floor, and the bread gone to the compost. Then go do something you love. Like make soup or go for a walk or take an imaginary drive to upstate New York (or your equivalent). Whatever it takes.
Thanks for all the get well wishes, they helped!
Carrot Fennel Soup with Parsley Walnut Pesto
makes 6 servings
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 fennel bulb, outer layer peeled then cored, and thinly sliced, fronds reserved for garnish
6 cups vegetable stock
1 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch rounds
2 tablespoon fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
cream or milk (cashew, soy, or dairy), optional
parsley walnut pesto (recipe to follow), optional
Heat the olive oil in a 6-quart pot over medium. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the fennel, cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the vegetable stock, carrots, parsley, thyme, and salt, then bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and simmer, partially covered, until the carrots are very tender, for about 30 minutes. Add the lemon juice or vinegar (to brighten the soup).
Remove the soup from the heat and let cool for a few minutes. Use an immersion blender or an upright blender (blend in small amounts) to puree the soup until completely smooth. Return the soup to the pot and gently reheat. Stir in the pepper and cream or milk if using. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with a spoonful of parsley walnut pesto.
Parsley Walnut Pesto
makes about 1 cup
2 loosely packed cups fresh parsley leaves (rinsed and dried)
sea salt, to taste
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup walnuts (or use 1/4 cup walnuts and 1/4 cup pine nuts)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
Combine the basil with a pinch of salt, garlic, walnuts, and 1/4 cup of oil in a food processor or blender. Process until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container if necessary and adding the remaining 1/4 cup of oil gradually. Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or freeze for up to three months.