8.17.2009

To their own devices

Recently, time has sort of been slipping around here. Not really slipping away so much as moving very, very fast, sort of like that Steve Miller Band song that Seal covered in the nineties—slipping into the future. I'm guessing it has something to do with the fact that it's August on Cape Cod and it's awfully hard to take a left on Route 6, let alone get much of anything done, but that's just a guess. Sometimes, the way that time slips around here in the summer can be a little bit scary, like when I think about the fact that I haven't weeded the garden in three weeks or vacuumed the house or even sat down to a proper lunch, but for the most part, it's okay. It seems to have agreed especially well with my atomic red carrots, who have seen not one glimpse of me since I planted them in June.


I came out of the woodwork the other day, a mere three months later, to check on them, and they were perfect. They were sporting big, bushy ponytails up top and long, thin tubers underneath, and they were just the right amount of sweet. They were also just as fiery as advertised on the seed packet, a deep, ruddy orange shade of red. Considering how long they were left to their own devices out there in the dirt, I really couldn't have asked for a better crop.

The only trouble, really, with how long they got away from me was that I had to pull them all at once. There was no strategic thinning or extended harvest going on—just 5 pounds of atomic reds staring up from the kitchen sink, all hoping for a salad or a snack or a roast all on the very same day. Of course, I couldn't manage that, so instead, I decided to make a batch of carrot fennel soup. It seemed like the best solution, since I had a tired fennel bulb and a wilting fresh onion and a good amount of garlic on hand that wanted some attention, too.

It turned out to be a very good solution, indeed. The recipe was easy, with little more than a half hour of roasting and a good bout in the blender involved, and the flavors of the carrots and the fennel melded perfectly in the heat. I sat down to a good, proper lunch for the first time in weeks, and even managed to eat some of the scrubbed carrots, too.

Now before any more time slips away—even though if we're being honest I'd love nothing more than to stay here and spend it with you—I had better fork over the recipe already and go get ready for work. Of course, that implies that I'll be able to find a clean shirt and a presentable, if slightly rumpled pair of pants, but I've got my fingers crossed.

CARROT FENNEL SOUP

This recipe is adapted from one I found in Gourmet last November. Their version called for a bit more fennel, but as I can only take the bulb in small doses, I toned it down a bit. The result was quite nice: a subtly sweet soup with just the right amount of caramel and licorice in the background. I ate it hot when it first came together and then later on chilled, and both ways were good, but given the way the weather's been acting lately, you might want to keep it in the fridge.

1 small fennel bulb with fronds
1 pound small fresh carrots, halved lengthwise
1 medium onion, quartered
1 garlic clove
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon sugar
2 and 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon fennel seeds

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Chop the fennel stalks and fronds from the bulb and set both aside. Slice the bulb into rounds 1/4-inch thick and toss it with the carrots, onion, garlic, 3 tablespoons of oil, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste in a large Pyrex pan. Roast the veggies for about 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all are tender and browned in spots.

At this point, haul out your blender. Put the veggies in along with any oil that might have collected in the pan, and pour in the chicken broth. Blend the whole shebang until you have a smooth, even puree. Transfer the soup to a large pot and let it simmer for a few minutes. (The Gourmet recipe called for another 2 and 1/2 cups of water, which I omitted, so if you feel like thinning your soup, feel free to do so at this point. I thought adding any water would make it way too watery, so I left it out, but who knows. Maybe fiery red atomic carrots aren't so thick?) Season with salt and pepper to taste, and either serve at once or pour into containers to chill.

Before you quit, you still have to make the garnishes. No matter how tired you are, don't skip these, as they really do make the soup. Get the reserved fennel fronds back out and chop until you have about 1 tablespoon of the feathered herb leaves. Grind the fennel seeds in a mortar and pestle, and add the remaining two tablespoons of oil to the ground spice. When it's time to eat the soup, drizzle a bit of oil and sprinkle a few fronds on top.

2 comments :

Kelly said...

LOL, I don't know how you deal with the tourist traffic on The Cape. We looked at quite a few houses in Mashpee, but ultimately decided we don't like people that much! ;)

Elspeth said...

Kelly:

It can certainly test my patience sometimes...but it's so beautiful here!

Best,
Elspeth

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