I am honored to be one of the Leftover Queen's Finest Friday Foodies today. Jen's fun Leftover Queen blog not only dispenses great recipes, but she hosts the Foodie blogroll and the monthly Royal Food Joust, in which participants take on the challenge of cooking with three designated ingredients to come up with a winning dish worthy of our Queen.
This month's trio includes fennel (seeds or bulb), parsley and dairy. I have had great fun tweaking recipes for past jousts and cranking out a delicious Apricot-Ginger Shortbread, Mango & Red Pepper Chutney, Raspberry-Lime Cheesecake, Spicy Omelet Sushi, and Yard-Long Beans with Tofu, but I am having a bit more trouble coming up with a recipe for this month's joust as I am not an experienced manipulator of fennel.
I have a zucchini-spinach soup recipe I like to trot out when the squash vines are pumping out produce and thought that an adapted version of this soup might be a joustworthy entry. Alas, the addition of a little bit of cream at the end to make sure the recipe included dairy just doesn't taste right. This soup should stay dairy-free to highlight the clean, green tastes of the vegetables, so I will have to keep playing with fennel to see if I can come up with something tasty by the end of the jousting month.
However, do try to make a batch of this soup sometime when you are longing for a warming dish. It is better when you have fresh spinach, but a thawed package of frozen greens is an adequate substitute. The following recipe is adapted from my battered and split copy of "Greek Vegetarian Cookery" by Jack Santa Maria (Boston: Shambhala, 1985).
Spinach-Zucchini Soup with Fennel Seeds
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tsp. fennel seed, crushed a little in a mortar or with handle of a knife
1 big bunch of fresh spinach (or 1 10-oz. pkg. frozen spinach, thawed), both rough chopped
2 medium zucchini, sliced thin
2 Tbsp. Italian parsley, chopped
10 cups vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil in a heavy saucepan and fry onions for 2-3 minutes, until softened. Add fennel seeds and saute another 2-3 minutes. Add spinach, parsley and zucchini. Stir around another 4-5 minutes to soften vegetables.
Add stock and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer another 15 minutes.
Leave out the cream.