Running Hot and Cold – Summertime Bread Soup with Pesto
Things are really heating up around here, in more ways than one. First and foremost I want to give a big shout out to my fabulous mother who has been working hard to help P4P (penchant for produce) gain some more exposure. And she has done so with great success – the blog hits are certainly coming on more heavily and I am excited to have new readers. To all of the newcomers out there, thank you very much for taking the time to peruse my blog. I hope you come back and visit often and am looking forward to hearing your questions, comments, and suggestions! You are what makes writing this blog exciting!
But as I mentioned earlier, its been getting hot hot hot. The South has been experiencing a major heatwave and temperatures in my new home state of Tennessee have been in the high 90s and low 100s for the last few days. Unlike the Northeast summers of my childhood, where mornings would start cool and temperatures would rise gradually and peak in the afternoon cresting and then falling as the cool moved back in for the evening, the heat here in the American South is hard hitting and unrelenting. When I left the Yoga studio yesterday at 7AM it was already 87 degrees and the evening temperatures are not much better. And in times like these, when the sun will not relent, the folks down here do what they have always done to beat the heat: they wear wide brimmed hats, they eat Popsicles and drink ice cold beer, and, whenever possible, they stay indoors and crank up the AC.
Since arriving, I have felt as though I have been living in two entirely different climates. On one end of the spectrum there is the hot, humid and sunny outdoor climate, which I inhabit only briefly and in short spurts as I dash from indoor location to indoor location. On the opposite end is the cool, dry, and shaded indoor world where I spend most of my time. But the problem is that some places, (mostly restaurants, malls, and grocery stores) are downright cold! And while I am becoming more vigilant about bringing a sweater with me when we go out for dinner, when I walk into a meat locker like establishment from the outrageous heat outside I find myself searching the menu for something to warm up my once burning and now freezing arms and legs.
And this brings me to today’s post, a very comforting and surprisingly summery bread soup, inspired by yet another Ottolenghi recipe. This soup is entirely vegetarian and can even be made vegan by simply substituting olive oil for the butter I use to sautee the onions and fennel. The fennel is what makes this soup truly special, its slightly sweet and anisey flavor bring a great deal of freshness to the soup.
Be patient when sauteing the onions with the fennel, keep the heat fairly low (med or so) and don’t stir them too often. After 10 minutes the veggies should begin to caramelize. This light caramelization is possibly the most integral component in the soup as the sweet onions and fennel mellow the acidity of the otherwise dominant tomatoes. The recipe calls for a dollop of pesto which tops off the soup and gives it a great dose of fresh herby flavor. While I love Trader Joes I am not a huge fan of their pesto, I prefer the brighter flavors of a refrigerator pesto to a canned one for this dish – I have used the one from Costco with great success (it freezes well as well. Whole foods carries great pestos as well.
Summertime Bread Soup with Pesto3 TBSP Butter 1 ½ Onions Sliced 1 Large Bulb of Fennel Sliced 4 Cloves Garlic Minced 3 Large Carrots, Peeled, Cut Lengthwise in Half and Sliced 3 Stalks of Celery Sliced 1 TBSP Tomato Paste 1 ½ Cup White Wine 1 28-Ounce Can Plum Tomatoes with Their Juice 1 TBSP Chopped Oregano 1 TBSP Chopped Fennel Fronds 1 TBSP Chopped Thyme 2 Bay Leaves 2 TSP Sugar 6 Cups Vegetable Stock Reduced 3 Large Slices Stale Italian Bread Well toasted and Cut into Small Cubes 2 Cans Chickpeas, Rinsed Well Pesto
In a large sauce pan melt butter over medium heat. Add Onion, Fennel, and two small pinches of salt and sautee for 10 minutes or until fennel and onion turn golden and begin to caremelize. Add garlic, celery, and carrots and sautee 4 mins more.
Stir in the tomato paste and cook for an additional minute, stirring. Add wine and bring to a boil. After boiling for a minute or so add the tomatoes, herbs, sugar, and broth and bring to a boil again. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
While the soup is simmering place the chickpeas in a small bowl and lightly mash them with a potato masher. Some should remain whole while others will eventually melt into the soup.
When the soup has finished simmering taste and add salt and freshly cracked pepper as needed. Remember when adding salt that the dollop of pesto on top will add saltiness to the dish.
About 20 minutess before serving time add the chickpeas to the soup. Wait till about 5 minutes before to add the bread.
Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve topped with Pesto and a small sprinkling of fresh parsley.