The selection at my Farmer's Market is evidence that it's definitely the heart of winter now. That is, if you even consider a Northern California winter an actual 'winter'. I guess that's debatable depending on what part of the country you're from. Anyhow, it's rather slim pickings, mostly lots of root veggies, still some apples, citrus fruits and dark green vegetables.
Tonight I thought I'd feature the beautiful fennel which is plentiful now and the few last of season apples in a pureed soup. Fennel is such a wonderful vegetable. It has a fresh anise flavor, which I happen to love raw or cooked. However, if you're timid about the flavor try roasting them first before adding to your recipe which will bring out the sweetness and mellow out the anise-y flavor.
This soup does have a bit of cream, mainly just to help with that silky mouthfeel which is desirable here. However, it gains most of it's flavor from the fennel and apples. The addition of a couple of potatoes add thickness and body so you can minimize the cream. Don't worry, the scones have plenty of cream if you were feeling deprived!
The scones are just yumm. I often make the same scones with fresh chopped rosemary (a great pairing with butternut squash soup) but I found a nice sharp cheddar from Sonoma County today, made from jersey milk, so I thought I'd adapt the recipe to include it. After all, a cream and butter scone with cheese added.... how bad could that be?! The chives lend their bright green color to the finished scone and their mild onion flavor is great with the soup.
For the Soup:
Yields 4 generous servings:
1 TB Olive Oil
1 yellow onion, 1/2" dice
2 medium bulbs fennel, fronds and core removed, 1/2" dice
4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2" dice
2 medium apples, peeled, cored, and diced 1/2" thick (I'm using 1 Fuji & 1 Granny Smith)
1 tsp fresh chopped rosemary
4 cups vegetable stock
1/4 tsp red chile flakes
sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup heavy cream
1) In a heavy soup pot, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and saute to wilt, about 2 minutes. Add the fennel, potatoes, and apples, rosemary, salt & pepper, and continue sauteeing, about 3 minutes more. Add the vegetable stock and cover the pot. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Continue to cook, about 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
2) Transfer the soup to the jar of a blender and carefully puree the soup until smooth, working in batches as needed. (Be very very careful when pureeing hot soup. Make sure you hold the top on firmly and don't overfill the blender jar or you and your kitchen will be covered with hot soup!).
3) When all the soup has been pureed, return it back to the pot and stir in the cream. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Serve with a little sprinkling of fennel pollen on top (see photo) or an herb salad, if desired.
For the Scones:
4 oz extra sharp yellow cheddar cheese, grated
6 TB minced fresh chives
2 cups Unbleached Flour, plus 1 TB
3 large Eggs, beaten lightly, plus 1 large egg beaten separately for egg wash
1/2 cup heavy cream, plus 1 TB for egg wash
1 TB baking powder
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp salt
8 TB (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1" cubes
1 TB coarse sea salt, for sprinkling
1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
2) Place the cheese, chives and 1 TB flour in a small bowl and toss to combine. Set aside. In another small bowl, combine the 3 lightly beaten eggs and the 1/2 cup cream and set aside.
3) In a large bowl, combine the 2 cups flour, baking powder, paprika, and salt. Add the butter and 'cut in', using a pastry blender or your fingers, working quickly so as not to soften the butter, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the cream and egg mixture and combine with a fork. Add cheese/chive mixture and mix until just combined.
4) Transfer the dough to a well floured surface and pat into a 9" round. Using a sharp knife, cut the circle into 12 wedges. Transfer the wedges to the prepared baking sheet and brush tops with egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, about 20 minutes until the tops are golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.