Cauliflower and Caramelized Fennel Soup

Tis the season for soups.  When I had some members of my family driving through a few weeks ago, I knew I wanted to try some new recipes for them.  The grocery store had cauliflower on sale and I had tagged this recipe from The Vegetable Butcher and I knew I wanted to put it together.  It seemed like something I could do after work was over without too much issue and it would be a fun way to get some different vegetables into our meal.

Cauliflower and Caramelized Fennel Soup.jpg

Cauliflower and Caramelized Fennel Soup

3 Tbsp butter or extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1/8-inch slices
1 medium fennel bulb, cut into 1/8-inch slices
2 tsp sea salt
1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
5-7 sprigs fresh thyme
1/8 tsp ground white or black pepper
4 c vegetable stock
3 slices country white or Italian bread, hard crusts removed
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp crushed fennel seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the butter in a dutch oven over medium heat.  When it begins to foam, add the onion, fennel, and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften and become translucent (do not let them brown), 5 to 8 minutes.  Add the cauliflower, thyme, remaining teaspoon of salt, and the pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower begins to soften, 5 minutes.

Add the stock and 2 cups of water.  Partially cover the pot, and bring the liquid to a boil over high heat.  Immediately turn the heat down to maintain a low simmer.  Continue to cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are completely tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the croutons: Tear the bread into bite-size pieces and place them in a large bowl.  Drizzle the olive oil, add a pinch of salt, and toss to coat.  Spread them out on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden and crispy, 12 to 20 minutes, depending on the type of bread.  Let them cool completely.

Take the pot off the heat, remove and discard the thyme, and let the soup cool briefly.  Use an immersion blender to blend the soup carefully.  Blend the mixture until it is smooth and creamy.  Season with more salt and pepper.

Serve the soup in individual bowls, garnished with the crushed fennel seeds, the croutons, and a drizzle of your best extra-virgin olive oil.

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