Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fall Fest: Roasted Carrot and Fennel Soup with Miso

It's November and just when Southern Californians thought the summer we never had (or had much of) was in the history books, the over-paid seers in the weather forecasting industry tell us we're going to be hitting temps close to 90 this week. Which, of course, is the day before I made a warming, cold-weather soup.

Because, after all, this is root veggie week in Fall Fest land. And on a chilly, rainy Saturday morning in San Diego, I thought about carrots and fennel and leeks and a picture formed in my mind of soup. A hearty soup based on roasting the vegetables and then adding some unusual flavors -- say white miso and shichimi togarashu. Never heard of shichimi togarashu? Well, next time you're at a Japanese market, find the condiment aisle and pick up a small jar of this pepper mix which contains red pepper, roasted orange peel, yellow and black sesame seeds, Japanese pepper, sea weed, and ginger. It's very aromatic and just a little spicy.

Anyway, I was inspired on Saturday to figure out how to make this roasted carrot soup. On Sunday, I pulled out a four-cup container of homemade chicken stock from the freezer to defrost. On Monday, I had a meeting at Specialty Produce and ended up going home with bunches of beautiful baby carrots and fennel bulbs. The weatherman be damned. I was making soup.

Roasted Carrot and Fennel Soup with Miso
Serves 4 to 6

2 pounds carrots, trimmed and washed
3 fennel bulbs, trimmed, washed, and halved or quartered, depending on their size
2 leeks, trimmed, washed, and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound carrots, washed and sliced
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoon Shichimi Togarashi
4 tablespoons white miso
1 pint half and half

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

If you're using full-size carrots, cut into thirds and slice the width of the thickest pieces to keep the carrots as similar in size as possible so they'll roast evenly. If you're using baby carrots, slice only those that are much larger to make them somewhat uniform. Add the carrots and fennel bulb pieces to a cookie sheet and toss with olive oil. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes until the vegetables are soft and turning brown.

While the carrots and fennel are roasting, heat up a Dutch oven and add about a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the leeks, garlic, and ginger and saute until the leeks have wilted and are beginning to caramelize. Add the sliced raw carrots and continue to lightly cook over low heat.

When the roasted vegetables have cooked, remove them from the oven and let cool until you can handle them. Then use a kitchen shears and holding the carrots and fennel over the pot, cut them into smaller pieces to add to the leek mixture. Stir together and then add the chicken stock. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes, covered.

Remove the lid, and either use an immersion blender to puree while still warm or let cool to puree in a blender or food processor. Add nutmeg, Shichimi Togarashi, and the miso. Stir well. Then add the half and half. Stir and taste. Adjust the seasonings if necessary. You can reheat the soup to serve or let it cool and sit overnight to let the flavors come together. I garnished my soup with toasted, spiced pecans.

So, how are root vegetables enticing my Fall Fest friends?

Gilded Fork: Hidden Jewels of Harvest
Michelle at Cooking Channel: Roasted Beet Salad
Food Network UK: Return to Your Roots
Roberto at Food2: Easy Roasted Root Veggies
Kirsten at Food Network: Root Veggie Sides to Try
Liz at Healthy Eats: In-Season Root Veggies
Caroline at the Wright Recipes: Slow-Cooked Pot Roast with Root Vegetables + Apple, Potato and Celery Root Mash
Nicole at Pinch My Salt: Rutabaga Puff
Paige at The Sister Project: Sweet and Savory Soup Too Good to Hide

Now It's Your Turn to Join Fall Fest 2010!
This collaborative effort won't be much fun without you! The more info we all give, the more we'll all enjoy fall's harvest. Have a recipe or tip that fits any of our weekly themes? You can contribute in various ways, big or small.
  • Contribute a whole post, or a comment—whatever you wish. It’s meant to be fun, viral, fluid. No pressure, just delicious. 
  • Simply leave your tip or recipe or favorite links in the comments below a Summer Fest post on my blog any upcoming Wednesday, and then go visit my collaborators and do the same.
The cross-blog event idea works best when you leave your recipe or favorite links (whether to your own blog or someone else’s) at all the host blogs. That way, they are likely to be seen by the widest audience. Everyone benefits, and then we're all cooking with some great ideas. Or go big: Publish entire posts of your own if you wish, and grab the big Fall Fest 2010 pumpkin badge above (illustrated by Matt of Mattbites). We'll also be tweeting using #fallfood as our hashtag. Here's the schedule:
Sept. 1: Sweet and Spicy Peppers
Sept. 8: Garlic
Sept. 15: White (or colorful “white”…but not sweet) Potatoes
Sept. 22: Spinach
Sept. 29: Apples
Oct. 6: Fall Salads
Oct. 13: Pumpkin and Winter Squash
Oct. 20: Pears
Oct. 27: “Mad Stash” (as in what you’re freezing/canning/drying, etc.)
Nov. 3: Root veggies
Nov. 10: Brassicas: incl. Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower, Cabbage or other
Nov. 17: Sweet Potatoes
Nov. 24: Bounty to Be Grateful For

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