Monday, July 11, 2011

Tomato Soup with Fennel-Scallion Soup Nuts

We were about 30 minutes away from going to the neighborhood carnival with the Mydyett-Hunter family when Heather confessed hunger. I needed to make something and get it in her before we left or she'd be stuck with nothing but the horrors of the midway fry stands. I asked her if a soup would be good and she made a sad face, because her current eating regimen doesn't allow bread, and she usually has bread or toast with soup. I proposed making some soup nuts and she acquiesced, though I don't think she had much confidence in the experiment.

Soup nuts are little fried dumplings you can float on soup that serve the place of crackers or bread. I know about them from the Jewish food tradition, but there ought to be equivalents in most cultures that make soup and fry things. I started the soup nut dough by chopping a scallion and the fronds of a fennel bulb. I should have diced them really fine, but in my haste I just ran the knife through them and tossed them in a bowl. I added an egg, some salt and sesame oil and beat the wet ingredients together with a fork.

For the dry ingredients, I mixed some white rice flour and brown rice flour with a little bit of baking powder, then mixed in the wet ingredients until thoroughly incorporated. I put about an inch of canola oil in the bottom of a small pot on the stove to heat, then turned my attention to the soup. I don't really like canola oil for tasks other than frying because it doesn't taste like anything, but it can take higher temperatures than most oils, so it's fine for frying.

For the soup I diced half a sweet onion and half a fennel bulb (jesus what's with me and fennel lately) and sweated them in olive oil along with a couple smashed cloves of garlic and a couple tablespoons of diced carrot, seasoning everything with salt and pepper. When everything was soft and just starting to caramelize, I added a can of San Marzano tomatoes, crushing them as I did. Once that all came up to a boil, I turned it down to a simmer and made the soup nuts.

The baking powder had lightened the dough nicely, so I was able to use a teaspoon to make neat little morsels of it, and they fried up quickly into little hairy balls.* I fried them to a lighter color than usual to avoid burning the bits of fennel and scallion that protruded all over, but they were small enough to be fully cooked by then. I drained them on paper towels, and dusted them with sea salt while still hot. I tried one on its own and it was pretty tasty. I can imagine eating a whole bowl of them while watching a ballgame.

The soup was ready, so I creamed it with the stick blender, whose praises I have sung before, and served it with the soup nuts on the side. The whole thing came together so quickly Heather not only got lunch, but had time to change her mind about her outfit before we had to leave. At the carnival midway I found the make-your-own-slush booth and made a kind of pousse-cafe out of root beer, blue raspberry, cherry, lemon and lime. It was awesome except for the crippling brainfreeze. Lila was pretty fearless on rides and fed baby goats in the petting zoo. soup (v) soup nuts (vg)

*That's a really weak that's what she said. I don't have much to tickle you with this time.**
**That's what she said


  1. To cook so often with fennel and yet not cook Pasta con Sarde is just a shallow attention seeking device. You're fooling no-one.

  2. Paul, two things: 1) I'm cooking for the "Jimmy Page" diet my wife is on at the moment, which doesn't allow wheat flour or pasta. I change it up by making rice pasta once in a while, but I don't want to wear our its welcome. 2) Blow me.

  3. Soup nuts! And I thought having balls in food form was fun. I can't wait to try some nuts.

  4. Steve,

    I would like to invite you to a Salon Dinner about Meatless Mondays on Monday, July 18, interested? email me at


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