I’ve been battling a cold for the past couple of weeks. Tonight I made the difficult decision to skip a show to which I already had tickets. Instead, I came home and continued to work my way through the frozen soup collection I’ve been amassing.
On those winter days when it’s too cold to think about going out, I spend my time cooking up large batches of soup using whatever I have on hand. I eat it for as many meals as I can stand and freeze the rest. The plastic pint containers that you get when ordering takeout or buying olives are perfect for a single serving. The key here is to be diligent about labeling each container with the date and the contents.
Tonight’s freezer exploration turned up a particularly tasty soup that I made back in January. I had hosted a cocktail party at which I served bagna cauda, a dip of butter and/or olive oil with garlic and anchovies. I like to add some red pepper flakes and parsley. You serve it warm (hence the translation: “hot bath”) with raw winter vegetables and hunks of bread for dunking. The bagna cauda paired brilliantly with both the Prosecco and the Negronis.
The next morning found me with a headache, sticky counters, and a bunch of leftover fennel, endive and cauliflower. The vegetables were beginning to brown where I had cut them. Delicate spinach intended for a salad was also begging to be consumed.
There are a few basic formulas for making soup. This one involves sweating the aromatics, adding the vegetables, gently simmering them in broth, and then pureeing the mixture. That’s it.
The absinthe was a last-minute addition that took the soup to a new level. Tonight it almost made me forget that I am missing Beth Ditto’s performance. Hopefully a cough syrup nightcap will finish the job.
- 3 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 red onion, diced
- 1 fennel bulb, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, pressed
- 2 tsp fennel seed
- pinch cayenne
- pinch powdered ginger
- pinch nutmeg
- 2 cups chicken stock, 2 cups water
- ⅛ cup absinthe
- ½ head cauliflower
- 2 bunches spinach
- 1 head endive
- sherry vinegar
- lemon juice
- garnish with plain yogurt, fennel fronds, fennel pollen
- Melt the butter with the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the red onion and fennel and cook stirring frequently so that they do not brown.
- When the onion and fennel are soft and becoming translucent, add the garlic, fennel seed, cayenne, ginger and nutmeg. Cook stirring constantly for a minute or two.
- Add the chicken stock, water, endive and cauliflower and simmer gently until the cauliflower is soft. Add the spinach and absinthe and simmer for another 10 minutes – or maybe less. (You want the spinach to retain its bright green color.) Puree using an immersion blender or in batches in a food processor or traditional blender.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired with salt, pepper, sherry vinegar and/or lemon juice. Ladle each serving into a bowl and garnish with plain yogurt, fennel pollen and the fennel fronds.