Recipe: Provencal tomato soup with fennel (and seafood)

This soup reminds me of one of my favorite family recipes (Mom’s bouillabaisse), but I think it’s a bit easier to make. I’ve made this twice now, once with squid and once with cod and shrimp. Both were excellent, and the squid one still tasted pretty good re-heated out of the freezer.

Provencal Tomato Soup with Fennel

Yield: 4-6 servings

Adapted from: How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman

Olive oil
1 large onion
2 garlic cloves
Salt and pepper
2 medium fennel bulbs
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 orange
1 T tomato paste
28 oz can diced tomatoes, or 1 quart bag frozen chopped tomatoes
4-6 c stock or water

Heat a few Tbsp olive oil in large pot over low heat. Chop onion and add to pot. Peel and mince garlic, add to pot, sprinkle with salt and pepper.

When onion and garlic start to sizzle, raise the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally until they begin to soften and color, 5-10 min. Trim and chop the fennel bulbs, saving a few of the fronds for garnish. Add the fennel to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until fennel begins to soften, 3-5 minutes.

Strip rosemary leaves from sprigs and chop. Grate 1 T zest from orange and save the rest for another use.

Add 1-2 T tomato paste to the fennel and cook, stirring constantly until it darkens slightly, 1-2 minutes.

Add the rosemary and zest and cook, stirring until fragrant, less than 1 minute.
Add the tomatoes and juices and scrape any browned bits off the bottom of the pot. Add 4-6 c stock/water and raise the heat to high.

When the soup comes to a boil, adjust heat so it simmers and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down, 5-10 minutes or longer. When the tomatoes have broken down, taste and adjust seasoning. Additional seasoning notes: add 1 T fennel seeds along with tomatoes for more fennel flavor. A few dashes of hot sauce are also a good addition.

Seafood options:
Shrimp: raise the heat a bit, add 1 lb peeled shrimp and cook 2-3 minutes stirring constantly, until shrimp turn pink and are cooked through.
Fish: 1 lb of 1-inch thick fillets of white fish should be laid on top of the soup, covered, and allowed to cook until it flakes easily, 3-5 minutes, then stirred into soup.
Squid: rinse 1 lb squid and cut crosswise into rings, and cut the tentacles free. When the soup is ready, raise the heat a bit, add the squid, and cook, stirring constantly, until the squid turns white and is just cooked through, 2-3 minutes.

Suggested accompaniments: crispy roasted potatoes, boiled potatoes, warm bread, green salad. Steamed sugar snap peas/ snow peas are also decent.

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