Thursday, February 9, 2012

Squash Soup with Fennel



Squash Soup with Fennel

I haven't been feeling well for the past week (I'll spare you the details) but had started this post last week and will finally get it published today.  It was great to have this soup available when I didn't have the energy to make anything.


My friend, Julie, shared her copy of Food and Wine magazine recently.   In it I found a recipe for Red Kuri Squash Soup by the renown chef, Alice Waters. The recipe used red kuri squash, which is a type of winter squash that I'm not familiar with, and also used a fennel bulb, which I have never used before either. But I did have some more sweet dumpling squash that a friend had given us just about 2 weeks ago, so I decided to use it as a substitute for the squash in this recipe.  Since sweet dumpling is a highly ridged squash that can't be peeled easily like a red kuri or butternut squash, I simply baked it whole in the oven, then scooped it out for use in this soup.  The original recipe also used butter  and a garnish of toasted pecans, both of which I omitted from my version.  I also added about half of the roasted fennel wedges to the soup before I pureed it, then used some as a garnish.  Of course, I had to take the garnish off before I actually ate it, but it looked so appealing with the decoration.  


I liked the simplicity of this recipe, too.   Simmering the onions with the squash and bay leaf in water is the kind of ease I need many days.


Fennel.  Hmmmm.  I generally associate fennel with French cooking, but wasn't even sure about that. Then I looked in Tom's trust-worthy Joy of Cooking cookbook, where fennel is described as an anise-flavored root with stalks and leaves and is frequently found in Italian markets.  Shows you what I know - or more accurately - what I don't know.  Further reading about fennel at WHFoods told me that, yes,  fennel is a frequent contribution to Mediterranean cooking.  It is described as  crunchy and slightly sweet.  Fennel is composed of a white or pale green bulb from which the stalks emanate.  The stalks are topped with feathery green leaves near which flowers grow and produce fennel seeds.  The bulb, stalk, leaves and seeds are all edible.  Fennel belongs to the same family as parsley, carrots, dill and coriander.


WHFoods also described  fennel as including its own unique combination of phytonutrients that give it strong antioxident activity.  The most fascinating phytonutrient compound in fennel, however, may be anethole.  In animal studies, the anethole in fennel has been shown to reduce inflammation and to help prevent the occurrence of cancer.  So the anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer benefits of fennel made it an enticing new herb to try.   When I purchased it, I was also immediately fascinated by the beauty of the lacy leaves, and thought they would make an appealing garnish for the soup or other foods I might be making.   


Fennel


Ingredients:
1 1/2 lbs.red kuri or butternut or other winter squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (3 cups)
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 medium fennel bulb, cored and cut into thin wedges
1 Tablespoon coconut oil, melted (or 1 Tablespoon olive oil)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Sweet Dumpling Squash


Preparation:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large saucepan, combine the cubed squash with the chopped onion, bay leaf and 3 cups of water and bring to a boil over high heat.  Cover and simmer over low heat until the squash is tender, about 20 minutes.

Simmering Squash


Meanwhile, on a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the fennel wedges with the coconut oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss well.  Roast for about 25 minutes, until the fennel is tender and starting to brown.

Roasted fennel wedges


Discard the bay leaf from the soup.  Add about half of the roasted fennel wedges, saving the remainder for garnish.  Puree the soup with an immersion blender, adding liquid to desired consistency.  I added about 2 more cups of water.  Season the soup with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.  Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with fennel wedges and the lacy leaves.

Fennel wedges added to cooked squash

Nutrition:
Servings per recipe: 8
Serving Size: 1 cup
Calories: 53
Total Fat: 2 g
Squash Soup with Fennel wedges and leaves
Cholesterol:0   mg                            
Sodium:  14 mg
Total Carbs: 10  g
Dietary Fiber: 3
Protein: 1

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