After I graduated from college and began eating lunch in my office cubicle, I discovered the hard way that it is possible to blow your entire paycheck on make-your-own deli salads. I'm sure many people can relate to this lunchtime predicament, and I'm positive that those sad souls with similarly meager paychecks also began reverting to the brown bag routine, as I eventually did.
Towards the beginning of this new tactical approach, I would stock my desk drawers with cans of soup. If I hadn't brought in my own salad, or leftovers from the night before, I would turn to this drawer for sustenance.
It is for this reason that when I think of thriftiness, I think of soup. Soon, I learned to make pots of my own at the beginning of the week, which stretched my budget a lot further than the $3.00 daily can and pushed my creativity to make humble veggies like these carrots and fennel into something rich and decadent.
This soup requires very few novel ingredients. But by roasting your vegetables, the flavors concentrate and caramelize, and you wind up with a pretty standout soup, equally worthy of the dinner table as the brown bag, especially if you supplement it with some good bread and softened, salted butter.
Shopping list: 1 large fennel bulb, $2.00; 1 pound carrots, $1.00; 1 onion, $0.40; 1 quart veggie stock, $2.50; 2 tablespoons butter, $0.25; 1/4 cup white wine, $0.50; 1/2 cup heavy cream, $0.30.
Pantry items: olive oil, salt, sugar.
Total cost (for 4 portions): $6.95
About the authors: Phoebe and Cara are the co-founders of Big Girls, Small Kitchen, a food and cooking website for twenty-something cooks looking for user-friendly, affordable ways to navigate their kitchens. They have a heated, decade-long rivalry about whose Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie is the best. Their book, Big Girls, Small Kitchen, will be published in the spring of 2011 by William Morrow. Visit their blog here.
- 1 large fennel bulb (about 1 pound), thinly sliced (fronds reserved)
- 1 pound carrots, peeled and quartered lengthwise
- 1 medium Spanish onion, quartered
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1 quart vegetable stock
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- Freshly ground black pepper
Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 450°F.
In large mixing bowl, combine fennel, carrots, onion, olive oil, sugar, and salt. Spread vegetables on rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast in the oven, flipping occasionally, until browned and tender, about 30 minutes.
Remove the vegetables from oven. Add half to bowl of food processor or blender with 1 cup stock. Puree the vegetables until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer to large Dutch oven. Repeat with remaining half.
Add butter and wine to the Dutch oven with the puree and cook it over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Add the remaining stock to adjust consistency and simmer for an additional 15-20 minutes. Add the cream and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
If looking for smoother consistency, transfer soup back to processor or blender and puree again until very smooth. Serve immediately, garnished with fennel fronds and a loaf of crusty bread.