For most parts of the country, soup in the summer may sound awful. Unless it something cold like Gazpacho or Chilled Avocado Soup. Here in Seattle, soup in the summer can be very welcome. The June that you all have had on the East coast? That’s what ours is usually like. Long days, but long wet and gray days are not the kind of long days you long for. Welcome to our Northwest world. This year, we have had your kind of June and man! is it awesome!
Still, we don’t get the stifling heat that makes you think soup would be a bad thing. Even on a warm day, the evening cools down enough to put on a sweater while eating dinner in the backyard. I love that about Seattle. People wonder how we can live in this climate and I wonder how people can live in a climate where you can’t go outside because it’s too hot. To each his or her own.
If you are so inclined, this is a nice soup to make in warmer weather because it doesn’t have to be served hot. It is just as lovely when served slightly warm. Yes, you have to turn on your oven for a bit to make the ricotta dumplings, but you can do it in morning and let them rest until you are ready to serve dinner. Because of the cheese triangles and the almonds in the soup, you really only need a nice salad to round out this meal. I made this for my clients last night so I also included a Pissladière which I think went really well with the soup.
One Year Ago: Turnip and Leek Gratin
Fennel and Almond Soup with Saffron and Ricotta Dumplings
Adapted from Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen
Makes 5-6 cups
One of the many nice things about this soup is that there is virtually no waste. All the trimmings of the vegetables are used in the (very quick and simple) stock.
2 cups chopped fennel stalks
Roots and 1 cup chopped paler leek greens
1 cup celery tips and leaves
1 bay leaf
Handful parsley stems
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
The Ricotta Dumplings
1 pound ricotta cheese (don’t use low fat)
1 tbsp. fennel or anise seeds
1 large or 2 smaller fennel bulbs (about 1 pound), quartered and cored
2 tbsp. butter
2 leeks, white part only, quartered and chopped
1 celery rib, thinly sliced
2 tbsp. chopped parsley
1/2 cup almonds, blanched and finely ground
2 pinches saffron threads
1 cup, more or less, shelled or frozen peas
Finely minced fennel greens for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Put the vegetable trimmings in a pot with 7 cups water, the bay leaf, the parsley, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, for about 25 minutes.
3. Press the ricotta into a 6-cup dish brushed with olive oil and sprinkle the fennel seeds over the top. (DT: I used a Pyrex 8×8 inch pan.) Bake until golden and firm, about 45 minutes. Cut into triangles and set aside. You can make the soup while it’s baking.
4. Slice the fennel into pieces that will fit in a soupspoon. Melt the butter in a soup pot and add the vegetables and parsley. Season with a teaspoon of salt, toss them around to coat, and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the almonds and saffron and cook for several minutes. Strain the stock. You should have about 6 cups, or a little less. Add the hot stock to the soup vegetables, bring it to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft but not mushy. Add the peas during the last 3 or 4 minutes. Taste for salt and season with pepper.
5. Serve the soup in soup plates or small bowls. Add 3 pieces of the baked ricotta to each bowl, sprinkle with the minced fennel greens, and serve.