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.

5 thoughts on “I Say Carrot, You Say Fennel… Carrot (FENNEL) Carrot (FENNEL): Amanda Hesser’s Carrot-Fennel Soup”

  1. “I recommend you buy the book and if you hate her writing, just use the recipes.”

    Dear AG: You have NO IDEA HOW MUCH I HATE AMANDA HESSER’S WRITING! Are you suggesting that you, too, hate her writing but still love her recipes? (And I do hope this is what yer sayin’, Brother Man!) Is this a kind of “love the sin, hate the sinner” conundrum? I can’t believe Mr. Latte actually married her. Poor Mr. Latte. At least he eats well. . .

  2. I thought I hated Amanda Hesser, too, but her book was really endearing and charming. I am afraid to say I’m a convert. Ruth Reichl’s memoirs are both good-stories-with-recipes paperbacks, too, and she doesn’t have Hesser’s bad rep.

    Hey Adam, you should put a stick blender on your holiday wish list type thing. Then you can make soup right in the pot, without having to dirty the food processor and haul crap all over the apartment. It makes pureed soup into something you can have any day of the week on a whim instead of an ordeal. And they’re not even expensive.

    This comment brought to you by Stick Blender Users of America.

  3. cooking for mr. latte is the most embarrassing book i’ve ever read im my life. i was so appalled i couldn’t stop reading; it was like watching the pat robertson show, you can’t stop watching because you can’t believe anyone can be this way.

  4. I’ve never been able to figure out Amanda Hesser– one minute I’m reading a book like ‘Mr. Latte’ and thinking to myself that she’s a pompous twit, and the next I’m munching my way through something delicious that she’s written up in the Times. Oh, the confusion! If only the recipes were bad, it would be so much simpler…

    If you’re in the market for an amazing cake-from-a-small-paperback, try ‘Il Ciambellone d’Emilia’ from p. 124 of Patrizia Chen’s book, ‘Rosemary and Bitter Oranges’. It is surpassingly good.

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