I Say Carrot, You Say Fennel… Carrot (FENNEL) Carrot (FENNEL): Amanda Hesser’s Carrot-Fennel Soup

If I were a stream-of-consciousness type of writer, I might say the following regarding my thought process yesterday:

Brr. Cold. Ouch. Wind. Ugh. Oooh. Please. Need. Soup.

Luckily, I’d thrown into my bag the most transportable of my favorite cookbooks–Amanda Hesser’s “Cooking for Mr. Latte.” It’s the size of a paperback. Maybe that’s because it is a paperback! I’m not known for my intelligence.

Often times, though, I like to carry a cookbook with me during my day so that when dinner time approaches I can flip through it and decide what I want to have. Such was the case with “Cooking With Mr. Latte” yesterday, after reading George Bernard Shaw’s “Major Barbara.” I decided I wanted to soup and settled on her recipe for Carrot-Fennel Soup.

At Whole Foods, no fennel could be found. I asked a man working there, “Do you have any fennel?” He gave me a look that seemed to communicate hostility since he was busy unloading tangerines. I gave him a look that communicated appreciation of his effort but a desperate need for fennel. He followed me to the wall of vegetables. “No fennel,” he said, “try again tomorrow.”

I was ready to give up. I whipped out Amanda’s book and found her recipe for beet soup. I began grabbing beets when I noticed a fennely looking bulb on the lower left corner of the vegetable wall. I went over and, sure enough, it was fennel. I returned to the man and communicated my appreciation of his effort while subtly hinting at his inefficiency. He threw a tangerine at me.

At home, I began the chopping. I used my new folding cutting board, purchased at the MOMA Design Store in SoHo. It said to chop coarsely. I took that to mean in large chunks but Lisa, who came over around this time, said it means chop it small. Not one to be corrected, I disregarded her input and scraped the fennel into a large bowl:


I went about chopping carrots and garlic and everything else that needed to be chopped. Then I began browning the fennel. [NOTE: I’m not going to include the actual recipe because I’ve been cooking lots of Hesser stuff lately and if I keep doing that I may get sued. I recommend you buy the book and if you hate her writing, just use the recipes.]

Mario Batali has said that too many home chefs are afraid to brown things as much as they need to be browned. I was ready to go to the next step when Lisa said my fennel wasn’t browned enough. I let it go further and was glad to see she was right. (I’m saying “browned,” but Amanda says “until softened and beginning to turn golden.”):


Next step we add the carrots, the garlic, and water to cover:


This cooks for 20 minutes while Lisa makes a salad:


I encouraged Lisa to make the dressing because I was afraid if I made it she would say it was too oily or too vinegary. As it was, she thought her own dressing was “too vinegary and too peppery.” But I thought it was just fine.

After 20 minutes of cooking, the carrots should be tender. They weren’t. I cooked them more–until they were tender. Then into the food processor they went with sour cream and freshly squeezed orange juice:


Blending the soup was frightening because I didn’t have the lid for the hole at the top and many a cook has warned, “Be careful! The soup will shoot up!” So I got a plate and covered the hole, but some soup shot out of the little chute that is usually partitioned by the little partition. I put a bowl underneath the shoot and all was well. Here’s the spectacular result:


Back on the stove, warmed a bit, and then served with salad on a Cook’s Illustrated Magazine:


Lisa raved that the soup was delicious. I’d almost made a carrot ginger soup but Lisa said she liked this better than carrot ginger. I liked it better too, I think–but I’ve never had carrot ginger. Anyway, it made me feel all warm inside, and isn’t that the point? I think it is, pa. I think it is.