Thursday, March 22, 2012

Cauliflower, Fennel and Almond Soup

Spring has officially arrived, but the Bay Area is cold again this week. This year is strange indeed. So I made soup again. Cauliflower and fennel are not very popular vegetables among Americans, from what I can tell. However well I cook them, they are often left untouched, whether it is in soup or a salad, or cooked as a side vegetable. Anyway, this soup is delicious and it has been successful on the menu. Fennel's licorice taste is toned down by using almond milk. If you do not want to use chicken stock, use vegetable stock or more water and/or almond milk instead.

I don't normally drink wine with soup (water is best), but if you must...
Try a dry or semi-dry fino-style sherry, or a low-alcohol Riesling (bottom, right corner of p. 2).

Cauliflower, Fennel and Almond Soup
Serves 4-5

1 head of cauliflower, cleaned and sliced
2 heads of fennel, cleaned, core removed, and sliced
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup dry white wine (e.g., un-oaked Chardonnay)
½ cup water
2 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 ½ cups light chicken or vegetable stock
½ cup heavy cream
salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
¼ cup whole almonds, chopped (for garnish)

In a pot (3 ½ - 4 quart) melt butter with oil, and saute the onion until soft (about 3 minutes).
Add cauliflower, fennel, garlic, white wine and water. Add up to 1 teaspoon of salt (depending on how much is in the stock), stir well and cook the vegetables for 4-5 minutes over medium heat. Add the almond milk and chicken stock. Cover and cook about 10 more minutes over medium-low heat. The vegetables should be tender and fragrant.

Remove from heat and puree the vegetable mixture with a hand-held immersion blender (or in a standing blender*) until smooth (caution, the vegetable mixture is hot).

Add heavy cream and adjust seasoning with additional salt and white pepper.
Sprinkle chopped almond as garnish. Serve with a good baguette.

*Note: Be careful when using a blender. Allow the hot vegetable mixture to cool 4-5 minutes before blending, and remove center cap of the lid so the hot air can escape (otherwise it might explode on you!).

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