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The Battle of Chilly April : 07 Helix Sangiovese and Bright, Lemony Tomato Soup

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Every year I encounter the same disappointing reality: April is not a warm month for Walla Walla. Sure, it’s warmISH or even perhaps warmER than the average March day, but it’s just not time to put away the fleece quite yet. Although April’s temperatures may disappoint the clear skies and bright sunshine definitely do not. I crave lighter, brighter foods to awaken my taste buds after winter’s glut of root vegetables and kale (don’t get me wrong, I still adore kale). This soup is perfect for the still undecided spring weather when it’s too cold to go for a salad but you are craving some freshness. It’s also dead easy to make with stuff I almost always have in my fridge. The 2007 Helix Sangiovese – a year round food pleaser – goes especially well with this soup. Its bright cherry fruit with solid acidity and well-composed medium tannins compliments the zing of the tomato and lemon while allowing the subtle sweetness of the caramelized fennel and roasted garlic shine.

Caramelized Fennel, Roasted Garlic and Tomato Soup with Lemon

Recipe (and picture) from The Gouda Life
serves 2 as main, 4 as sides

1 large bulb fennel (about 1 1/2 cups), diced
olive oil
1 head of garlic, roasted*
1 can (1/2 cup) tomato paste
4 cups chicken or veg stock
1 cup water
2-4 tbsp fresh lemon juice, depending on taste
salt and pepper to taste
fennel fronds, optional

Drizzle a pan over med-high heat with a few glugs of olive oil and let it get hot. Add the fennel and a few pinches of coarse salt and let it cook, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until deep brown and caramelized around the edges, 20-30 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and roasted garlic cloves and cook until the paste has deepened in colour and become very fragrant, 6-7 minutes. Add the stock and water, bring to a boil and stir, scraping the bottom of the pot to release all the flavourful bits of fennel and tomato paste. Turn down to a simmer and let it bubble away for 20 minutes. Puree if desired (I like it smooth, but there is nothing wrong with a chunky soup). Add lemon juice, 1 tbsp at a time and taste to see if you’d like to add more. Taste for salt and add more if needed. Ladle into bowls and garnish with fennel fronds and a drizzle of olive oil.

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