My very first recipe.


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Photography by Matt Hocking.

At 13 years-old I created my first recipe.

That was the age when, for the first time, Mom decided I was old enough to leave home while she ran an errand. Ready to eat lunch, I headed out to the garden where I pulled several carrots from the ground and snipped the ferny fronds from fennel.

Back in the kitchen I sliced the carrots and added them to a pot of water along with the fennel fronds. I placed the pan over high heat, gave it fifteen minutes, and took a taste. The water was lukewarm and the carrots were still rock hard. I decided the soup needed more time.

Five minutes later I returned and took another bite. The water was now hot and tasted a little bit like licorice. More time, I thought, and began impatiently pacing the kitchen. Another five minutes later – now a total of 25 minutes, an eternity to a 13 year-old – I lifted the lid to take a final taste. At 13 I had created my very first recipe: carrot and fennel soup!

It was terrible. I had used no aromatics or stock. There was no seasoning, not even a pinch of salt.

Photography by Matt Hocking

Photography by Matt Hocking

Last night, when my friends from the Farmers Market Coalition joined me for my weekly night of recipe development, Tuesday #testkichen, I decided to try again.

There’s no way that 13 year-old boy would have ever thought of making a quick vegetable stock or puréeing the soup. He certainly wouldn’t finish it with a blood orange brown butter and butter-fried fennel seeds. But that kid, my 13 year-old self, was on to something. Right now I’m giving him a big hug – and grabbing another bowl of soup.

Carrot and Fennel Soup

Serves 6-8

While I love hearty, spiced, winter carrot soups, this is meant to taste light and springy. Keep the purée thin and delicate rather than the stick-to-your-ribs thickness of a fall and winter soup.Oh, and you should serve the blood orange brown butter over everything from green beans to sautéed chicken breasts – it’s delicious!

For soup:

  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
  • 3 very large carrots, sliced in 1/2″ rounds, about 8 cups
  • 4-6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • White pepper
  • Rice wine vinegar

For brown butter:

  • 4 tbs butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 blood orange, zested

For fennel seeds:

  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1 tbs fennel seeds

Directions:

  • Melt butter in a four quart soup pot over medium heat. Add shallot and cook, 3 minutes, until softened. Add fennel and cook, stirring occasionally, until brown on edges, 5-7 minutes.
  • Add carrots and 4 cups of stock. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, until carrots are very tender, about 20-25 minutes.
  • Purée soup in batches in a blender. Return to the pot and thin with additional stock to desired consistency. Season to taste with white pepper, salt and a splash of vinegar.
  • Make brown butter: Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. The water content in the butter will foam as it evaporates and the milk solids will settle to the bottom of the pan. Add shallots and orange zest. Reduce temp to medium low and cook until the milk solids turn a rich brown. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, discarding solids.
  • Toast fennel seeds: melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add fennel seeds and cook until browned and crisp, being careful not to burn. Remove immediately from pan and drain on paper towels.
  • Serve soup with a drizzle of blood orange brown butter and pinch or two of toasted fennel seeds.

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