Last week, I finally got around to reading Molly Wizenberg’s book, A Homemade Life. Molly is one of my favorite food bloggers, also known around the web as Orangette. I’ve made dozens of her blog recipes, and her husband’s chana masala is the gold standard recipe in our home now. I don’t know why I waited so long to read the book…I’ve had it for months. Molly feels like a friend after reading her blog for years and reading the book made that connection feel even stronger. A Homemade Life is a sort-of food memoir – she uses stories about food to share her life, celebrate milestones, and each chapter is punctuated with a homey recipe.
After reading Molly’s recipe for tomato soup with fennel, I immediately bookmarked the page so I could make a pot as soon as I finished reading. I love tomato soup – as a kid it was the comfort of Campbell’s, served for Saturday lunch with a grilled cheese sandwich and popcorn to garnish each spoonful of soup. When I lived in Washington at Holden Village, I rejoiced when cream of tomato soup was on the menu, and theirs is still my go-to recipe today. But Molly’s soup may be a new contender for my favored pot of comfort soup.
There’s nothing too fancy here – we’re talking slicing an onion and two bulbs of fennel, saute and add the tomatoes and herbs…but the simplicity is the thing. The fennel and tomatoes are magical together – the familiar anise-like flavor is there in every bite, but the tomatoes and slow simmer make the flavors complementary, rather than a harsh bite of raw fennel. Mark prefers his soup more toward the “stoupy” side, as in – more like a stew and less like a soup, and this filled the bill perfectly. We enjoyed the leftovers for lunches all week, and I brought along a small container of quinoa to add to my soup as well, so that I wouldn’t be starving by 3pm, since a bowl of this soup is very light on calories.
What’s your favorite way to eat tomato soup (or fennel)? Share your stories of your favorite bowl in the comments below!
Tomato Soup with Fennel
Adapted from Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life
2 28oz cans of whole, peeled plum tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, sliced thin
2 fennel bulbs, stems removed, cut into quarters and sliced thin on a mandoline
2 T olive oil
1 T butter
1 tsp dried celery leaves, crumbled (optional)
2 tsp fresh thyme, minced
2 tsp whole fennel seeds
3 cups water
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt & pepper to taste
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp red wine vinegar
- Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil, butter, onions and fennel. Stir to coat the veggies, then saute for 5 minutes, until the onions just begin to soften. Add the garlic, thyme, celery leaves, fennel seeds and pinch of red pepper flakes – stir.
- Pour the cans of tomatoes into a large bowl and get your hands in there and crush the tomatoes. Pour the tomatoes into the pot along with 3 cups water. Cover and bring to a boil, then uncover and reduce heat to low to simmer for about an hour, until the fennel is meltingly soft, and the soup has thickened a little. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Pour half of the soup into a blender – cover the blender with a paper towel (instead of the lid) and puree until smooth. Add the puree back to the pot and stir. Add the tsp of sugar and red wine vinegar and stir. Taste, adjusting the seasoning as needed with extra salt, sugar, vinegar and pepper as needed. Serve.