Tag Archive | fennel

Roasted Chestnut Soup

I have had a love affair with chestnuts in all their forms, ever since I can remember and though extremely versatile, my absolute favourite way to enjoy them is freshly roasted and warm, straight off the hot coals.

These days, we bake them in the oven, but I have fond memories growing up of sitting by the fire, hearing them crackle as they slowly roasted over the hot ambers in my mom’s wood stove. We could barely refrain from digging in as she pulled them from the fire, and we waited impatiently until we could handle them before cracking their shells open and biting into that first mouthful – piping hot, velvety and creamy, delicately sweet, buttery nutty and utterly luxurious. We eat them raw too, but there’s nothing really quite like a warm, roasted chestnut.

We’ll take them anytime, but in my family, they tend to be used to complete a meal, just before the espresso, and what a finale!

They are used in both savoury and sweet dishes. I have made vegetarian tourtières with chestnuts, vegetarian cakes, and they are delicious in stuffings, at the center or as enhancers. One of my favourite panettoni incorporates marrons glacés, but I also love thèse candied chestnuts on their own! There’s a bag of chestnut flour in my refrigerator just waiting for experimentation.

I’ve been wanting to make a soup for a long time, but for that, one requires excess roasted chestnuts, which is rare in my household!

This soup came together quickly and rather effortlessly. I knew what it had to be. I really wanted the chestnuts to shine through so was very careful with any additions, ensuring they were truly complementary, but more importantly, enhancing, taking care not to mask or detract from the chestnuts in any way. Celery wasn’t going to do the trick and carrots were only going to make the soup even sweeter, so I opted for fennel, which needed to be roasted first because I didn’t want the anise flavour to come through too much.

The outcome was nothing less than purely magical for a flavour combination that exceeded expectations. It’s a roasted chestnut soup with a boost, a lift, if you will, that managed to elevate the chestnut to a whole other level. If the quarter roasted fennel bulb wasn’t served as a garnish, you’d never guess it was the active ingredient. The perfect spoonful? A large chunk of the roasted fennel drenched in chestnut goodness.

Earthy, comforting and rich, there’s nothing quite like it. Seemingly made for this time of year, at least, for these parts.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

 Chestnuts, roasted, shelled 2 cups
Fennel, bulbs, large 1.5 (1/2 bulb for soup below, 1 bulb for serving)
Olive oil
Salt
Black pepper
Olive oil 3 tbsp
Leek, large, chopped 1
Garlic, clove, minced 1
Fennel, roasted, ½ bulb, roughly chopped 1 cup
Brandy 2 tbsp
Broth, vegetable 3 cups
Salt 1 tsp
Black pepper
Peppercorn medley 1/4 tsp
Sage, leaves, fresh, chopped 2
Vinegar, sherry 1/2 tbsp
Cream, light 1/2 cup
Bread, crusty Serving

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 400F. Bake chestnuts for 30-45 minutes until cooked. Shell.
  2. Reduce oven to 375F. Quarter fennel bulbs. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and black pepper and bake for 30-40 minutes until caramelized.
  3. In a medium pan over medium heat, heat 3 tbsp of olive oil.
  4. Add leek and sautee until onions become translucent.
  5. Add garlic and cook for a couple of minutes.
  6. Add roasted fennel ( 1/2 bulb, 1 cup) and cook for a couple of minutes.
  7. Deglaze the pan with brandy.
  8. Add chestnuts, broth, salt, black pepper, peppercorn medley, and sage.
  9. Cook for approximately 10 minutes until chestnuts are tender.
  10. Remove from heat and puree.
  11. Return to heat. Add vinegar and cream and return to a gentle simmer.
  12. Remove from heat.
  13. Divide soup between four bowls.
  14. Place a quarter of the roasted fennel in the middle of each soup bowl. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Serve with crusty bread.

Winter Salad

Winter Salad

You’ve heard me rant about leafy winter greens, especially those consumed raw in salads. Even when you do manage to get them in pretty good condition, they don’t quite taste the same, understandably so. They’re not in season.

Does that mean I stop eating salads in the wintertime? Absolutely not! It just means I need to think about salads a little differently.

I made this recipe for my mom during her visit and she loved it, so much so, that upon returning home, she went out and bought yellow beets, kohlrabi, and carrots to replicate the salad. It was nice to hear my mom say that as much as she loves salads, she gets tired of eating the same thing all the time. I love the classic Italian salad (olive oil and red vinegar with dried oregano and a touch of salt), but I too need variety. There hasn’t been a salad that I have experimented with that my mom hasn’t liked. I take the opportunity to try new ideas out each time she visits.

So what makes this salad special? The crunch and the robust distinctness of each of these hardy vegetables. Having removed the leafy greens entirely, it’s literally a play of crunch, greatly enhanced by the different cuts (mandolin slicing, strings, and sticks), and the interplay between the unique flavours of the select hard vegetables.

Over the week, I presented this salad in many ways, but my favourite was on a long plate in bunches by vegetable. It really allows you to appreciate the specialty of each vegetable; the salad gets lost in a melange. So, you can eat by bunch of vegetable or by bite by vegetable. Either way, savour the distinctness of each vegetable.

Each of these vegetables has a unique personality, so the only vinegar that could stand up to the collective robustness of the vegetables was the crispness of champagne vinegar (white wine vinegar works well too) and the only other thing the veggies needed were the sweetness of the chives and the little hit of heat from the chill pepper.

This is one of my favourite salads. Consisting mostly of root vegetables, it is not only satisfying, but yummy crunchy!

Serves 2

Ingredients:

Fennel, bulb, sliced (preferably with a mandolin)  1/2
Endive, leaves  10
Beets, orange, medium, sliced (preferably with a mandolin)  2
Carrots, small, cut into swirls  2 (or 1 large one)
Kohlrabi, medium, cut into sticks  1
Chive Vinaigrette:
Olive oil 4 tbsp
Vinegar, champagne 2 tbsp
Mustard, Dijon 1/2 tsp
Chives, chopped, sprigs 10 + more for garnishing
Pepper, chile, small, hot, chopped (seeds removed) 1
Garlic, clove 1
Salt 1/4 tsp
Black pepper 1/4 tsp

1. Using a hand blender, combine all vinaigrette ingredients until the chives and chili pepper are pureed.

2.  Slice and chop all the veggies. Divide ingredients in half and display vegetables in a pile separately on a plate. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Garnish with chives.

Arugula, Strawberry, & Fennel Salad with Creamy Date Vinaigrette

Arugula, Fennel & Strawberry Salad with Date Vinaigrette

Mmmmmmm strawberries! I’ve been waiting months to make this again! I remember thinking that the only thing that could make this salad better is strawberries. That was an understatement. Sweet strawberries are a perfect match for peppery baby arugula and so is the combination of strawberries and fennel, and strawberries and dates, for that matter. So many wonderful flavour combinations going on, you’ll delight in discovering them all.

Serves 4 (as a side or 2 as a main)

Ingredients:

Strawberries, hulled, quartered 12 (3 per person)
Fennel, bulb, large, sliced 1/2
Arugula, baby 5 oz
Macadamia nuts, toasted (if serving it as a main for 2 people you’ll need 1/3 cup of macadamia nuts, otherwise you will need 2/3 cups as a side for 4 people) 1/3-2/3 cup
Vinaigrette:
Shallot, diced 1 tbsp
Olive oil 5 tbsp
Vinegar, champagne 2 tbsp
Dates, finely chopped 2
Garlic, clove, minced 1
Mustard, Dijon 1 tsp
Salt 1/4 tsp
Black pepper 1/4 tsp
Mace, ground Small pinch
Sage, leaves, fresh, chopped 4

Directions:

  1. In a small pan, over medium heat, toast macadamia nuts. Watch them very carefully. Their high oil content lends them to burning quite quickly. They normally take 4-5 minutes.
  2. Using a hand blender, combine all the vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl. The vinaigrette should be on the thick side, very creamy.
  3. Combine baby arugula and sliced fennel in a medium salad bowl.
  4. Add vinaigrette and toss well. You will have vinaigrette leftover for another time.
  5. Place mixed salad on individual serving plates and top with strawberries and macadamia nuts.