parsnip & roasted fennel soup


Since we left New Jersey when tomato season was still in full swing, I was a few frozen batches short on my favorite roasted tomato soup this year. In fact, I didn't even make one jar of sauce, which is not an easy thing to admit. Here's hoping that Colorado's tomato season doesn't let me down come next August. In the meantime, I wasn't really ready to let go of finding a new soup recipe to tide me over. After all, winter has only just begun. And since there's nary a tomato in sight these days, I went for something a little more readily available during the colder months: parsnips and fennel.

Parsnips are one of those root vegetables I don't pick up that often. It's nothing personal, parsnips, I just don't know what to do with you and often forget you exist. These yellowish-white carrot-like veggies get pretty sweet when cooked but retain a little bite when raw, sort of like radishes. Their sweetness is a pretty neutral one, however, and I thought it would pair great with the flavor of fennel, which I really wanted to shine through.

And if you want to see Jamie Oliver singing about fennel (you do), go here.

For this recipe, you'll need:

1 fennel bulb and stems, thinly sliced
1 medium parsnip, thinly sliced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon vegan butter
2 tablespoons whole wheat all-purpose flour (you could also use a GF all-purpose variety)
4 cups vegetable stock or broth
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Salt & pepper

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees. Take your sliced fennel bulb and half of the sliced stems (save the rest!) and toss on a baking sheet with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for twenty minutes or until they start to soften and caramelize. Roasting enhances the flavor of pretty much any vegetable but it makes fennel a new kind of amazing.

In the meantime, heat several tablespoons of olive oil in a large stockpot. Add your remaining fennel stems, onion and garlic. Sauté for several minutes until the onions start to go translucent. Add your parsnip, celery and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Continue to stir to avoid too much sticking. Once everything starts to meld together, add your (heaping) tablespoon of vegan butter (I used Earth Balance for this one) and flour. As the butter melts, quickly fold the vegetables into it. Immediately add some stock, which will help the butter/flour combo start to thicken. Gradually add the rest of your stock and continue to stir.

Add your roasted fennel to your soup and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 20-25 minutes. Just before removing from heat, add your lemon juice. You can blend the soup in batches in a high-power blender, use a handheld immersion blender, or leave it as is. Me, my preference is for blended soups, so that's the direction I went. Top your soup with some chopped fennel fronds for a little extra pretty and lot of extra flavor.

For just a few ingredients, this simple soup packs a ton of flavor. Great to make over the weekend and reheat for lunch throughout the week!

More soup, please?