I obsessively read about food, in any form I can get my hands on. Cookbooks, magazines, old clippings that have been saved, the internet, reading menus of restaurants as I walk around nyc. I am sure that if you read blogs like mine, then you are an obsessive food reader too. It's as if my brain wants the same attention to food that my stomach gets. The struggle is oh so real, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
I have also become an obsessive food listener. I recently got into listening to podcasts, thanks to Serial (I'm sure that Serial is responsible for getting a lot of people who never listened to a podcast, into podcasts). Then from Serial I started listening to the Ted Talks radio hour, and from there I realized that the NPR series, The Splendid Table, was also available on my podcast app. I have now found myself in a rabbit hole of fun and interesting food podcasts, and my long car rides (which are pretty frequent) have been forever changed. My one frustration with being in the car all the time used to be that it took those couple of hours away from me when I could have been writing or reading about food, but now with the splendid table podcast playing while I am driving, I can still consume my food infatuation in a completely different, but just as satisfying, format.
Even though I am lovinggg listening to my podcasts, my favorite way to take in food knowledge will always be through cookbooks and magazines. My love for the printed word is real and big, and the promise that each new magazine or cookbook holds for me is the same every time I thumb through crips new pages for the first time. I have so much love and respect for the printed word that I have a hard time throwing out food magazines. Now is a good time to mention that I am the complete opposite of a hoarder. I get excited about purging, and I am very quick to get rid of things that are no longer of use, with the one exception being food magazines. I have a pretty large shelf on a closet dedicated to saving these magazines, many of which I have not looked through in years, and when room runs out on that shelf, I am not sure what I am going to do ...... I might have to negotiate with Michael for another shelf somewhere ;)
As you can probably guess, a lot of my inspiration for recipes comes from books and magazines. Sometimes I will see an ingredient, a unique technique or preparation, or just a really great recipe, and my wheels will start turning. I think that is how a lot of recipes in this world come to be ...... we read something, see something, taste something and we can't get it out of our head until we create something based off of it.
When I read recipes, there is one thing that really turns me off and it is recipes that are long and complicated. Even more so when there is no reason for them to be long and complicated. More and more I am trying to pair things down to basics, because when you think about those five tastes: sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami ... then you realize that it really doesn't have to be that complicated. You can achieve really flavorful meals with fewer ingredients if you really think about the five tastes, and then choose your ingredients thoughtfully.
So, I am starting my trend in that direction with this soup, which was inspired by a recipe I saw in the latest issue of Saver magazine. The recipe was simple to begin with, but I decided to make it even simpler. This soup only consists of 5 main ingredients if you do not count olive oil, salt, and pepper. (Side note ..... do you think this can officially be called a 5-ingredient soup without counting the olive oil, salt, and pepper? Let's discuss, tell me what you think in the comments below.) White beans, onions, and garlic and pretty flavorful on their own, but with some toasted fennel seeds and a squeeze of lemon juice added, they are taken to a whole new level. Top with some crispy sprout leaves, then this soup is easily transformed into something really special (all while keeping it super simple).
white bean + fennel seed + lemon soup with crispy brussels sprout leaves
recipe inspired by a white bean + fennel seed soup recipe in this month's issue of Saveur
about two large bowls, or four smaller bowls of soup
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, sliced
1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds, coarsely ground with a mortar and pestle
1/2 - 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 (organic BPA-free) can of white beans, drained
the juice of 1/2 lemon
for the sprouts:
10-15 brussels sprouts, leaves separated
olive oil, salt, pepper, and a squeeze of juice from the other half of the lemon
Get the soup started:
- Heat the olive oil over medium heat, in a medium, heavy bottomed pot. Add the onion and the fennel seed and cook until the onion is soft and starting to brown. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper and cook for another two minutes, while stirring.
- Add the white beans, and 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for about 30 minutes.
While the soup is simmering, make the crispy brussel leaves:
- Pre-heat the oven to 350º. Spread the sprout leaves out evenly onto a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, squeeze a little lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper and give them a gentle toss to coat. Roast until the they are crispy and the edges are starting to brown, about 8-10 minutes.
Blend and assemble the soup, and serve:
- Add the juice of half of a lemon, and then using either a standard blender or an immersion blender, blend the soup until silky smooth. Taste and adjust and any seasoning you think is necessary (maybe a pinch more salt / pepper, etc).
- Ladle the soup into bowls, and then top with a handful of the crispy sprout leaves, and serve immediately (warm). The soup will keep for a few days in an air-tight container in the fridge, but the sprouts are best enjoyed right out of the oven.