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For Christmas, my parents gave me Karen Page, The Vegetarian Flavor Bible, which is essentially a giant dictionary of (vegetarian) foods, each one listed with all the other foods they taste good with. As I was flipping through it, I discovered that fennel and butternut squash were supposed to taste good with each other, and with cheese, and the idea for this soup was born. It turned out well!

Dietary and accessibility notes: This soup can be made either vegan (no cheese) or vegetarian (with cheese garnish). It requires some chopping (especially of the fennel bulbs - you could substitute pre-chopped butternut squash, onions, and garlic), and an immersion blender, blender, or food processor for pureeing.

Ingredients:

1 butternut squash, cut in half, seeds removed
2 large fennel bulbs, stalks removed, cut into wedges
Olive oil

1 onion, roughly chopped
4–5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

Salt
Red pepper flakes
4 cups/1 L vegetable stock
3–4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 cups/500 mL (ish) water

150g/6 oz (ish) feta cheese



Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400º fahrenheit/200º celsius or your preferred roasting temperature. Prepare squash and place squash halves face-down in a greased, ovenproof baking dish. Prepare fennel bulbs, place wedges in another greased, ovenproof baking dish, drizzle with olive oil. Roast uncovered 40–45 minutes or until squash and fennel are soft. Remove from oven and let cool for however long you have the patience to wait. Once cool, scoop squash out of rind and chop each fennel wedge into thirds for easier puréeing (this step could be completed a day ahead of time).

Roughly chop the onion and garlic. In a large soup pot, sauté onions, garlic, salt to taste (I'd start with about 1 1/2 teaspoons), and a few shakes of red pepper flakes in olive oil until onions are translucent.

Add stock and balsamic vinegar to soup pot, then add roasted squash and fennel. Add enough water to cover the vegetables (so that they can move freely in the pot). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes or so (or until you run out of patience).

Remove pot from heat and purée soup (most easily accomplished with an immersion blender). If you're using an immersion blender, the fennel takes some time to purée. I ended up leaving my soup a little chunky, and most of the chunks are fennel. The soup will be quite thick - add more water if you prefer a thinner soup.

If you are planning to keep the soup vegan, you may want to add a little more salt and/or balsamic vinegar at this point.

If you are using the cheese, either crumble it into the pot and stir until partially melted, or add it to individual bowls (I used about a tablespoon for a good-sized bowl).

Garnish (if you choose) with more balsamic vinegar, or more cheese, or if you wanted, toasted fennel seeds (or the squash seeds, roasted). Nom!

Edited to add: [personal profile] sid has suggested that this might also be good with goat cheese, a suggestion I can only agree with. If so, you may want to increase the salt a little.

on 2015-01-04 12:48 am (UTC)
sid: (cooking Green onions)
Posted by [personal profile] sid
This sounds pretty darn fabulous! I'm not a feta fan, so I'm thinking goat cheese would be a good substitute?

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