The lady at the checkout counter of the local grocer stared at the stout-bulbed feathery fronds with a mixture of perplexity and annoyance.
Guiltily, I explained, It’s fennel. What do you do with it? she countered.
I looked behind me at the lady next in line, who was tapping her feet somewhat impatiently. No moral support there.
This was not the only produce in my basket to come without a barcode, I’m afraid. No cashier likes to reference that laminated cheat sheet (in small print), more than once. The only way to render oneself more of a persona non grata in a supermarket queue is to have an item which requires the help light to flash. And the words that everyone hates to hear, Price check on Aisle 9!
Fortunately, it did not come to that. Amidst apologetic smiles, I escaped with my fragrant bounty, planning a dinner of crusty bread with hearty soup, gently warmed through to dispel the encroaching chill of a fall evening. A soup full of the goodness of potatoes, cabbage and carrots taken to a higher plane with the elegance of fennel. The recipe was adapted from an online friend’s blog, Cooking Chat.
- Chop in chunks:
One fennel bulb
A quarter or half head cabbage, depending on the size (~ 4 cups)
Three smallish potatoes
- Also, finely mince:
One clove of garlic
- Heat, in a heavy bottomed pot:
A tablespoon of olive oil
- Add to hot oil:
One Bay Leaf
- Follow with the chopped vegetables
- Season with:
Salt and black pepper, to taste
- Add and simmer together:
Vegetable (or other mild) broth and/or water to cover the veggies by a couple of inches.
- Cover for about 20 min or until the vegetables are tender.
Somewhere in this process, allow spouse to add secret ingredient ( a few drops of Angostura Bitters: I’m not sure why, but Bitters make Everything Better).
- Puree to satisfying smoothness with a handheld blender, or blend in batches using a mixer. I added some light cream at this point, for additional richness. You can leave some chunks, if you prefer. Oops, forgot to fish out the bay leaf. Guess what? It disappeared into the soup and no one died.
- Warm through gently, and serve with any or all of these topping:
- Sliced sundried tomatoes
- Ribboned sage (or other herb)
- Freshly grated Parmesan
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- Black pepper, freshly ground
- Thinly sliced jalapeno pepper.
Enjoy with sliced and toasted bread, drizzled with olive oil and rubbed over with a slice of garlic!