Every person has things that they do to relax or for stress relief, me I love to bake. For me baking is therapeutic and stress relieving. Just spending time in the kitchen helps me to calm down and put the world into perspective. I might be a dork, but I love to put on Frank Sinatra, or Andrea Bocelli, or lately Michael Buble and create away, and let the stress melt away. I also dance in the kitchen, so does my little dog Chloe, we have a blast, it is such a great way to spend the afternoon. My dear friend however is stressed by the mere thought of cooking and the idea of cooking a meal from scratch gives her a cold sweat. I have never understood the fear of cooking, I wish I did, so I could help my non-cooking friends, but then again if I did they probably would not visit me anywhere near as much.
When the cold weather comes I love my soups and chilis, basically anything nice and toasty warm. Last week I was definitely on a risotto kick, this week I have been doing a ton of baking and have been in love with soups. Sometimes the soups of the fall get well how can I put this mildly...fattening! I am always on the lookout for ways to lighten up a traditionally fattening soup, some work better than others that is for sure. This recipe is one of my favorites for really anytime of year. but right now is a great time for it, especially with fennel being so cheap right now in my grocery store. Now I realize that some are hesitant to try fennel, several people think that it will be too strong of a flavor, quite the opposite is actually true. With cooking it mellows out to a rich, mellow creamy flavor. Since I am a definite expert of leftovers I can attest that this is a soup that gets even better the the day after serving, plus this definitely makes sure that you get your veggies in for the day. I have this sometimes for lunch with a side of crusty french bread, total bliss I tell you, total bliss.
Fall Greens Soup
2 red bell peppers
2 large fennel bulbs with stalks
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup peas
2 cups chopped leeks
1 cup minced shallots (about 2 large)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
3/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
1 bay leaf
4 ounces fresh spinach
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
red pepper flakes to taste
Preheat broiler. Cut bell peppers in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place pepper halves, skin sides up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten with hand. Broil 15 minutes or until blackened. Place in a paper bag; fold to close tightly. Let stand 10 minutes. Peel and chop; set aside.
Trim tough outer leaves from fennel. Mince feathery fronds to measure 2 tablespoons; set aside. Remove and discard stalks. Cut bulbs in half lengthwise; discard core. Chop bulbs to measure about 4 cups.
Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add fennel bulb, leek, and next 3 ingredients (through salt); cover and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add broth, water, and bay leaf; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 12 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Stir in spinach, peas and black pepper. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 5 minutes at room temperature.
Pour half of fennel mixture into a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining fennel mixture. Return pureed soup to pan; heat over medium heat 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
Combine roasted bell peppers, yogurt, lemon rind, lemon juice, and ground red pepper in a food processor; process until smooth, top each serving with 2 tablespoons yogurt mixture. Garnish with fennel fronds and fresh peas.