Sunday, January 18, 2015

Apple-Fennel Soup (cooked waterlessly before blending), Leftover Seitan with Mushroom and Potato, Baby Arugula with Olive and Preserved Lemon; Note on Hot Chocolate and Lemon Oil

I taught a Food for Life class two days ago, including using fennel, and had about a bulb of fennel on hand. I found a fennel apple soup recipe online that calls for sauteing onion and then adding fennel and apple pieces and cooking for 5-10 minutes on medium heat till soft, then blending with stock. I decided to use that approach as an inspiration and try coming up with my own recipe.

At last week's banquet, the restaurant made a very tasty seitan, mushroom, and potato dish, and we still had leftovers. I served it along with a baby arugula salad with tomato, olive, and preserved lemon. My Dad doesn't eat leftovers, so I skipped the seitan but added some raw cashews to his meal. Here is what I did:

  • 1/2 medium onion cut roughly into approximately 1/2" pieces
  • Fennel with fronds (leaves) reserved, bulb roughly chopped into approximately 1/2" pieces, and stems saved for future use
  • Apple; mine was organic, so I didn't peel, but otherwise it should be peeled; in any case, the apple should be roughly chopped into approximately 1/2" pieces
  • 2 small Yukon gold potatoes (peel kept on if and only if organic), chopped into approximately 1/4" or 3/8" pieces
  • 2 cups water
  • Vegan bouillon cube
  • Salt to taste (I used approximately 1/4 t)
  • 1/8 t dried dill weed
  • (Optional) 1t fresh or frozen basil

  1. I put, in this order, the onion, fennel bulb, apple, and potato into a small Saladmaster stock pot and, covered, brought to medium high heat. Once the vapor lock started rattling, I reduced the heat to low until the rattling stopped, and cooked for about 20m. (Instead of waterless cooking, one could just gently cook the ingredients on medium heat, stirring occasionally.)
  2. I put the cooked vegetables into my Vitamix blender (any blender would do), along with the rest of the ingredients, and blended to a puree.
  3. I sampled the soup and found it to be too sweet, so added a small shallot and blended; it was still too sweet. I wondered what to do, so tried adding 3 leaves of kale, stem and all.
  4. I blended on high a few minutes till the soup was steaming hot. In a regular blender, the pureed soup could be poured into a pan and heated.
  5. I served, topped with a garnish of fennel fronds.
I also served the leftover seitan dish, as well as the salad.


Dinner was good but I was critical, more than the rest of the family who seemed to enjoy it a little bit more than I, of the sweetness of the soup. It was good but I didn't taste much fennel and it was, well, a bit too sweet. It was reasonably thick and didn't need cashews added to the blending, as I thought it might, to thicken. The seitan was great, and the salad was quite good.

Ideas for the future

I would like to continue to experiment with an apple-fennel soup - or maybe a pear-fennel or some other sweet fennel soup. Next time, I'd use half as much apple. My Dad doesn't eat garlic, but a hint of garlic, maybe a clove or possibly two, would be nice in this dish. The kale wasn't really necessary, but added good nutrition today. I could use maybe one leaf of kale next time for a hint of color and, of course, the nutrition, but I'd like to come up with something savory to counteract the apple and make its sweetness a bit more subtle. Cumin might be good.

Note on Hot Chocolate and Lemon Oil

Incidentally, I had my daughter help me to make soymilk-based hot chocolate earlier in the evening. I rarely use a powerful ingredient I keep in my refrigerator, Boyajian brand lemon oil, but was inspired by recently trying a surprising but excellent combination of organic lemon ginger chocolate with black pepper. So I mixed in not just cinnamon and vanilla (and later topped with freshly ground nutmeg), but also a drop or two of the oil. As the Boyajian website states, "Our citrus oils are natural essences that are cold pressed from the rind of the fruit. Extracts and flavorings don't come close to the remarkable intensity of these oils. Use sparingly in place of zest or peel. As a general rule, start with 1/2 teaspoon per cup of dry ingredients, plus 1/4 teaspoon per cup of liquid ingredients in any recipe."

The hot chocolate was excellent, and we both loved it! I should use these strong oils occasionally (I also have lime oil), as they impart a powerfully pleasing flavor.

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