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Tomato Fennel Soup with White Beans

I made some bite-sized croutons out of stale bread today – just mixed them with some good olive oil, salt and Italian seasoning. They are pretty tasty on their own, my daughter munches on them happily while I cook next to her. She loves to add seasonings from my palm, her favorite part of cooking right now is “sprinkling.” Love her.

The croutons are to go with:

Tomato Fennel Soup with White Beans

This is a take on the classic tomato soup, we’re just adding some extra nutrients and depth.

In a soup pan, melt about two tablespoons of ghee. Toss in about a 1/4 of an onion, diced. Mix that around, add two of the roasted garlic cloves you made on Sunday. If you don’t have any more on hand because you’ve already eaten it all (it’s been known to happen in my house), chop up one raw clove and add that. Give it a few minutes to come together, then add some sea salt, a pinch of ground pepper. I prefer to grind my own, you can use a mortar and pestle, or an old coffee grinder. Or just buy it pre-ground.

And yes, I’m no photographer, but you can at least get the general idea.

I also like to add some dried herbs, whatever your tastes are – I went with parsley, oregano, thyme, and sage. Then add two fennel bulbs, roughly chopped. Fennel is beautiful thinly sliced, raw in salads. It’s also great roasted and stewed. Your cuts don’t have to be pretty, just make sure you remove the inner core. You can save any scraps for a broth later on this week.

Once the fennel starts to steam and make your kitchen smell of anise, add a splash of white wine. If you don’t have wine (I almost always do), just go ahead and add some of your vegetable broth. It will deglaze your pan and bring up the tasty bits cooked to the bottom. This is called the fond. Add enough broth for about four bowls of soup and stir. Bring it up to a boil, then back down to a low simmer. Add your can of crushed tomatoes. Let that simmer for 5-8 minutes, then add your bean broth.

The bean broth will make this soup really dynamic, and will also help to thicken it up a bit. If you have a parmesan cheese rind, toss that in as well. Let this all simmer together for about 30 minutes, taste it as you go and adjust the seasonings as you like.

Then add in your cooked white beans and turn off the heat. Add some more roasted garlic if you think the soup might need a little something. I’ve also been known to add a pinch of sugar here as well. A small pinch, you don’t want it to be sweet.

Let the soup cool in the pot and store it in your fridge overnight. Soup is always better the next day. But if you can’t resist, serve yourself up a bowl!

When you’re ready to eat it, serve it garnished with fennel fronds and crunchy, oily croutons. It’s also good with some more ground pepper and parmesan on top.

This is comfort food for my family, and my daughter has repeatedly asked me to name it after her because it contains three of her favorite foods: tomatoes, fennel, and white beans. She’s five and won’t go out of her way to eat enough fruits and veggies, but I make sure she does. Since birth she’s been in the kitchen with me, being exposed to lots of different tastes and aromas. The only rule is: You have try it once. And that means once every time I make it. Usually, she ends up liking it.

Is it a challenge for you to get your young children to eat veggies? What do you do to try to get them to eat? I definitely bribe with the promise of dessert, but I hope I never have to resort to this.



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