Tag Archives: Fennel

Favorite Soups and A Recipe for Zesty Tomato-Ginger Bisque

Apparently I jumped the gun a bit on posting about the weather last week, but it’s just as well. You really don’t want to hear about (or see) the nasty slush, mud, snow drifts, ice floes, and dangerous flying detritus (icicles, tree branches, etc.) we are dealing with here as we lug food and water to the chickens and cart their eggs back.

Fortunately, on a much more pleasant note, an artist friend of ours who has smartly vacated the Island for Santa Fe, New Mexico, is painting by day and cooking from Fast, Fresh & Green and The Fresh and Green Table by night. Don McKillop has been posting on my Facebook timeline about his favorite dishes, and the other day he mentioned the Zesty Tomato-Ginger Bisque. It seemed to provoke a lot of yums and mmmms from other Facebook friends, which just reminded me how much everybody (including me) loves soup. And that of course, tomato soup is a quintessential chill-chaser. (I’ve shared the bisque recipe below.)

Over the years I’ve developed a lot of soup recipes, and it’s kind of fun to look back and see the variety. At Finecooking.com (where several of my soup recipes reside!) you can take advantage of a cool “Create your own recipe” format and make one of my creamy soups with your favorite vegetable and favorite pantry ingredients. (Or you can go straight to Carrot-Ginger Soup, Butternut Squash Soup with Garam Masala, Yogurt & Lime, or Broccoli Soup with Bacon.)

If you’re in the mood for a hearty chowder but are cooking for a vegetarian crowd, visit Vegetariantimes.com for a story I did last year. Recipes include Roasted Butternut, Squash, Apple, and Farro Chowder; Many Mushroom Chowder with Yukon Gold Potatoes and Rosemary; Caramelized Onion and Savoy Cabbage Chowder with Thyme; and Root Veggie Chowder with Collard Ribbons. And right here on Sixburnersue.com, I’ve posted a few of my favorites from The Fresh & Green Table, including Asparagus & Leek Bisque, Spicy Noodle Hot Pot with Bok Choy, and a variation on my Farmers’ Market Minestrone. I’ve been working on more soups over the winter, too, and I have to say, they’re as satisfying to make as they are to eat.

A tasty soup builds layers of flavors by starting with lots of aromatic vegetables (onions, carrots, leeks, garlic, ginger, celery, fennel—sautéed until golden, of course) and finishing with a few bright herbs and a splash of acid (vinegar or citrus). In between, broths get savory flavor from bits of meat, earthy green veggies and roots, bright tomatoes, hearty beans and noodles, and even the occasional rogue ingredient like a Parmigiano rind or a whole star anise. Understand where the flavor comes from, and you’re more than halfway to making a brilliant soup. And to forgetting about the damp and cold outside!

Zesty Tomato-Ginger Bisque

Recipe copyright Susie Middleton from The Fresh & Green Table (Chronicle Books, 2012)

I have made tomato soups every-which-way, and honestly, they’re all pretty comforting. But this one has a special zing and warmth to it that I love. I start with leeks and fennel, add lots of ginger and a bit of garlic, and then season with a combination of orange, coriander, honey, and balsamic (just a small amount) to give those bright tomatoes a sturdy backbone. The magic of the blender produces a smooth, comforting puree, and just a little half-n-half gives the soup a silky finish. Garnish with crunchy rustic croutons or a dollop of crème frâiche.

Serves 4, Yields 8 cups 


2 tablespoons orange juice

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon tomato or sundried tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

2 28-ounce cans whole, peeled tomatoes (I like Muir Glen)

1 cup water

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups (5 1/2 ounces) thinly sliced leeks (about 3 medium or 4 small leeks), well-washed

1 1/2 cups (5 1/2 ounces) thinly sliced quartered and cored fennel bulb (about 1 small fennel bulb)

Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

Freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup half ‘n half


In a small bowl, combine the orange juice, honey, tomato paste, and balsamic vinegar. Set aside.

Empty the contents of both tomato cans into a mixing bowl. Gently break up the tomatoes into smaller pieces with your hands (effective but messy!) or a pair of scissors. Add 1 cup water to the tomato mixture and set aside.

In a 4- to 5-quart Dutch oven or other wide saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium-low heat. Add the leeks, fennel, and 1 tsp. salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 to 10 minutes. Uncover, raise the heat to medium, and continue cooking, stirring frequently and scraping browned bits off bottom of pan, until the vegetables are all browned in spots and the bottom of the pan is browning a lot, another 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the ground coriander and stir well. Add the garlic and the ginger, and cook, stirring, until softened and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the orange juice/tomato paste mixture and the tomatoes and stir well to incorporate. Bring the soup to a boil and immediately reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 17 to 18 minutes. (You will notice on the inside of the pot that the soup has reduced a bit.)

Take the pan off the heat and let the soup cool for 15 to 20 minutes.

Puree the soup in three batches (fill the jar only about half way or just a little more) and cover the blender lid partially with a folded dishtowel (leave a vent opening uncovered to let steam out) to prevent hot soup from splashing on you. Combine the three batches in a mixing bowl, then return to the (rinsed) soup pot. Whisk in the half ‘n half. Taste the soup for seasoning and add more salt or pepper if needed.

Reheat the soup very gently. Serve hot garnished with the Rustic Croutons.


All photos by Susie Middleton except asparagus soup, Annabelle Breakey; tomato soup, Jessica Bard

Stormy Minestrone, A Recipe for Comfort

All I can think about today is soup. This may be because I have too many vegetables crowding up the fridge. After another round of recipe development and a pre-hurricane sweep of the garden, I am left with the clear makings of minestrone—everything from a five-pound bag of carrots to three awkwardly space-hogging baby fennel bulbs. I have a big basket of winter squash I keep stumbling over in the pantry, and I have a little handful of green beans I just plucked off the dying vines this morning. I even have a few cranberry beans that are finally ready to harvest, from plants that miraculously show very little storm damage.

Our storm damage, in fact, was minimal. Had circumstances been different—if Sandy hadn’t taken a left turn when she did—we would likely be facing a very different winter here on the farm. Instead the hoop house is still standing, the animals are all fine, and in fact, we have another flock of laying hens due to arrive here this week (more on that soon). So thankfully, Roy is building—rather than rebuilding. Now, of course, I hear that a big Nor ‘Easter is coming up the coast this week. So maybe we are not out of the woods yet. But still. I can’t stop thinking about Staten Island and the Rockaways and Seaside Heights. All those folks still without power and nights getting really chilly. And lots of friends on the coast of Connecticut with serious flood damage. We did have plenty of coastal erosion up here on the Island and flooding in the lowest harbor areas in the towns, but most homes were safe and dry (and warm).

Everyone knows it could have been different, though. One Island friend posted an idea on Facebook a couple days ago for a coats-and-warm-blankets drive, and seemingly overnight, boxes outside of Island businesses filled up with donations, and volunteers have come forward to drive the items down to a particularly hard-hit neighborhood in Queens.

I will be here, making hot and comforting soup, sort of a crazy response to feeling for other people who are cold. It’s like I have a sympathetic and not entirely imaginary chill that must be chased away. We human beings have strange responses to things—I know I can’t share my soup with those folks, but I’m hoping someone else will share their hot food with someone cold and hungry, and in the meantime I’m sending comfort-soup-karma out as best I can.

Here’s my Fall Farmers’ Market Minestrone recipe from The Fresh & Green Table. Deeply flavored without any meat at all, it’s a good starting point for comfort soup, but feel free to vary the veggies as you please.

Fall Farmers’ Market Minestrone  

Recipe copyright Susie Middleton, from The Fresh & Green Table (Chronicle Books, 2012).

The secrets to this meatless minestrone include lots of aromatic veggies and a Parmigiano rind. I usually finish the soup with grated Parmigiano and/or a bit of gremolata (a mix of freshly chopped parsley, lemon zest, and garlic). But if you don’t want to bother with the gremolata , it’s perfectly delicious without it.


1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 cups medium-diced onions (about 1 large or 2 medium)

2 cups thinly sliced Savoy cabbage (about 1/4 small head)

1 cup thinly sliced fennel bulb (quartered and cored first, about 1/2 small bulb)

1 cup thinly sliced carrots (about 2 carrots)

Kosher salt

1 cup peeled, medium-diced butternut squash (about 4 to 5 oz.)

1 cup large-diced stemmed Swiss chard leaves (thinly slice stems separately and include them, too)

1 Tbsp. minced fresh garlic (plus 1/2 tsp. if making gremolata)

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme

2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary

1 tsp. ground coriander

1 Tbsp. tomato paste

1 14 1/2-oz. can diced tomatoes (I like Muir Glen), well drained

1 2-inch Parmigiano-Reggiano rind

½ cup ditalini pasta or other very small pasta

1 cup thinly sliced green beans (about 4 oz.)

½ to 1 cup fresh corn kernels (optional)

1 to 2 tsp. lemon juice

½ tsp. lemon zest (if making gremolata)

2 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley

1/3 cup coarsely grated Parmigiano Regianno


a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven or other large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, fennel, cabbage, carrots and 1 tsp. salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened and mostly translucent and the cabbage is limp, about 6 to 8 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until much of the cabbage is browning and the bottom of the pan is browning as well, about another 8 to 9 minutes.

Add the 1 Tbsp. garlic, the thyme, the rosemary, the coriander, and the tomato paste. Stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the butternut squash, the chard, the diced tomatoes, and 1 ½ tsp. salt and stir well until incorporated. Add the Parmigiano rind and 8 cups water.

Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add the ditalini and cook another 8 minutes. Add the green beans and the fresh corn (if using) and cook for 4 to 5 more minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, remove the Parmigiano rind, and stir in 1 tsp. of the lemon juice. Let cool for a few minutes; taste and adjust for salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

For the gremolata (optional), combine the 1 tsp. garlic, the lemon zest, and the fresh parsley in a small bowl.

Garnish each portion of hot soup with some of the gremolata or chopped parsely and some of the Parmigiano.

Yields 8 cups, Serves 6



Imagining Spring with A Fennel & Meyer Lemon Recipe

This long winter is making me cranky. It snowed yesterday, for God’s sake! I want spring—the real spring—to arrive NOW. Fat chance. Here on the Island, it’s a long way’s off. The maritime climate (read: cold ocean air) keeps the trees from leafing out until it is practically summertime—spring slides by in a blur of lilacs and rhubarb.

It’s not just light and warmth I’m longing for; it’s something fresh and green and edible I want—something pulled from the ground with my own hands. Soon, soon, soon, I tell myself. It won’t be long before we head to our secret watercress stream and come home with a wild salad.

But for now, I’m still stuck imagining springtime at the grocery store. It’s not surprising, then, that I snapped up some frilly frondy bulbs of fennel yesterday. With all that greenery still attached, nice fennel bulbs look like they’re fresh from the garden—you can squint and imagine they’re still growing. A bag of Meyer lemons caught my eye, too. They weren’t cheap, but I had to have them, simply because their color reminded me of a sun-drenched villa in Italy. (A hypothetical villa, I’d have to say, since I’ve never been to Italy!) Meyer lemons have a bracing, almost champagne-ish quality to them that’s a lovely switch-up from the starker acidity of lemons. I wouldn’t necessarily call them sweet, but they do have a complex flavor that hints of tangerines.

At home, I decided to brown-braise the fennel and finish with a little buttery pan sauce enhanced with the Meyer lemon juice. Since I’d already planned to grill-roast a pork loin for Roy, this was a perfect side dish—a riff on a recipe I did for Fast, Fresh & Green. While I love fennel raw—sliced paper thin for a salad—I find that braising it brings out a sweet flavor and tender texture that appeals to a lot of folks who think they don’t like this veggie. Ironically, though, cooked fennel is no longer very fresh and spring-y looking; this homey kind of braise is actually great on a cold night—which, of course, we still have plenty of around here. Hope it’s warmer wherever you are!

Brown-Braised Fennel with Meyer Lemon Pan Sauce

Printable Version of Recipe

You’ll have to forgive the long-winded description of trimming and cutting fennel here—I did my best to be clear, but a video would have helped! Just aim to get fennel wedges that are close to the same width so that they will cook evenly; don’t worry if the wedges don’t hold together—no big deal. Also, I’m sorry to say I call for 2 fennel bulbs here, but you will probably only use about 1 1/2. (One very large fennel would do it, but most of what you get in the grocery is medium-sized.) Save the remainder for salads. Feel free to use lemon juice here instead of Meyer lemon juice. I’d use a bit less or combine the lemon with a little orange juice to get a similar acidity.


2 medium-large fennel bulbs (about 1 1/4 lb. each with stalks)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter (cut 1/2 tablespoon into two or three pieces and keep cold)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice (or 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons regular lemon juice and or a combination of lemon and orange juice)


Get out your pan. Make sure you have a 10-inch straight sided sauté pan and a lid for this. If you don’t have a straight-sided sauté pan, a Dutch oven would be a better bet than a slope-sided skillet.

Trim and cut the fennel bulbs: First cut the stalks and fronds off each bulb. Roughly chop a few fronds to yield about two teaspoons (more or less is fine) and set that aside for garnish. Cut each bulb in half. With a sharp knife, notch out most of the core from each bulb half, leaving a bit of the core in to hold the eventual wedges together. You will only need three of the four halves—save the other to slice thinly into green salads. Put the remaining halves, cut side down, on the cutting board and cut each into 5 or 6 wedges about 3/4 to 1-inch thick. (Point the knife towards the center of the bulb as you make each cut—that way you will be sure to include a bit of the core.) You will probably only be able to fit 14 or 15 wedges in the sauté pan. To see what fits, arrange them in the dry pan off the heat.

Cook the fennel. In the 10-inch straight-sided sauté pan, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the butter and the olive oil over medium heat. When the butter has melted, arrange the fennel wedges in one layer in the pan and season with the 3/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, uncovered, without stirring, until the bottom sides are browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Use tongs to check to see if the wedges are browned enough. You also might want to move your pan around on the burner to make sure the wedges brown evenly.

Carefully flip the wedges over with the tongs and cook for about 4 minutes on the other side. Pour the chicken broth in the pan and cover loosely with the lid, leaving just a bit of room for steam to escape. Make sure the chicken broth is simmering; raise the heat if necessary. Cook until the chicken broth has reduced to just a couple tablespoons (the wedges will be tender), about 10 to 12 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and carefully transfer the wedges to a serving plate.

Return the pan to the heat, add the lemon juice and quickly scrape up all the browned bits on the bottom of the pan (don’t let the liquids over-reduce). Add the cold butter pieces and stir until melted and the sauce looks creamy. Remove the pan from the heat and stir and scrape the pan sauce over the fennel pieces. Sprinkle the chopped fennel fronds and a tiny bit more salt over and serve right away.


Variation note: If you like, you can add a few very thin half-moon slices of Meyer lemon or lemon to the pan along with the fennel wedges while they’re cooking. They get browned and soft and are perfectly edible.