Our Thanksgiving holiday was action packed and as a result, I’ve been slow in coming with a new post. We had two Thanksgiving celebrations, one with Moroccan friends and colleagues, and other with American ex-pats. I’ve got pics and recipes to share from the feasts, but here is a recipe that will help with the post-holiday de-tox. I try to sneak in some healthier meals between all those holiday goodies that surround us at this time of year.
The soup below highlights my new love for fennel. Fennel bulbs are in all my local markets these days and I’ve been picking a few up every time I venture out for produce. If you’ve never cooked with fennel or only used it for flavoring your Thanksgiving turkey, you are missing out on this wondrous little bulb.
Fresh fennel bulbs look like a cross between and onion and a leek, but the flavor profile is much sweeter with a licorice aroma. Don’t let the licorice aroma turn you off. I’m not a huge fan of licorice myself, but fresh fennel is subtle and fragrant. I’ve been using fennel bulbs in my stews, roasting them with vegetables, and using the stalks and fronds for soups. They are a new fall staple in my cooking. I sneak them into everything! According to whfoods.org, fennel is also a great source of vitamin C and fiber, among other nutrients.
Recently, liveyourhealth.com asked if I would be interested in submitting a 100% plant based recipe and writing a guest post. I thought this would be a good chance to create a vegetarian soup or stew and show case some unique flavors. Admittedly, this recipe caters to adults, and the flavors are probably more fitting for those that enjoy Mediterranean foods and are a little more adventurous in their foods. Here the flavors of the eggplant and fennel take center stage and the garlic and cumin give a warm, flavorful boost. This is also a great non-traditional way to use eggplant. It’s easy to keep this recipe vegan friendly simply by omitting the crème fraiche at the end.
What is your favorite recipe for fennel or eggplant?
FENNEL, EGGPLANT, AND WHITE BEAN SOUP
2 medium or 1 large eggplant
2 fresh fennel bulbs
1 small yellow onion
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 15oz can of white beans, rinsed and drained
2 quarts (2L) vegetable broth
½ fresh lemon
¼ cup crème fraiche or sour cream (optional)
Pre-heat oven to 400F. Cut the eggplant in half and place on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cut off the stems or fronds of the fennel and cut the bulb into quarters. Cut the onion into large chunks or quarters as well. Place the fennel and onions on the baking sheet with the eggplant. Drizzle over the eggplant, fennel, and onion with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then salt and pepper generously.
Roast the eggplant, fennel, and onion in the oven for 40-45 minutes, until the vegetables are soft, but not mushy. Remove from the oven and cool until you can handle the eggplant easily to remove most of the skin from the eggplant. It’s no big deal if there is a little skin, but try to get most of it off. It’s ok if the eggplant breaks up into pieces, we are going to lightly mash or puree the soup later.
In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the roasted, skinned eggplant, onions, fennel and fresh garlic. Sautee everything together for 1-2 minutes, then add the cumin, oregano and drained white beans. Stir lightly to combine, then add the broth and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and simmer the soup lightly for 10-15 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
Turn off the heat and with a potato masher or hand blender, lightly mash or puree the soup. I like the soup to be a thick, chunky consistency, not a smooth puree. Serve in bowls with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a dallop of crème fraiche or sour crème if using. If you aren’t on a low-carb plan, this soup is wonderful with some crusty bread!