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potato fennel soup with eggplant

“Summer afternoon – summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”

Looking out from our kitchen at the redwoods dressed in afternoon sun I would tend to agree with Henry James. No, October 22nd isn’t really summer in the true sense of the word, as much as the warm weather and last farm zucchinis on the table suggest it. But I’m ready to make amends with fall, starting with the fact that I spent my summer afternoon making the one meal that makes me crave autumn above all else—soup.

In my family soup was never relegated to the role of mere starter. Halloween meant costumes, trick-or-treating, and the Great Candy Trade which commenced every year when our haul was complete, but just as much as any of those things it meant soup—pots of it steaming on the stovetop to greet tired  flamenco dancers and their parents. My earliest memories of eating vegetables (and enjoying them) are all memories of soup: kale and potato soup with Polish sausage, creamy butternut squash soup, broccoli soup that had even our veggie nemesis friend Hayley asking for seconds. When I started cooking for myself in college the first recipe I came up with was for soup, a mishmash of vegetables, beans and pasta that I made repeatedly for months. I still remember the delight of standing over the pot that seemed to fill the entirety of my college kitchen—and the tragedy when I spilled an entire 2-quart Tupperware of my concoction onto my dorm room floor.

Last week, as if right on cue, a book mysteriously appeared on our kitchen table: The Soup Bible: All the soups you will ever need in one inspirational collection. (yes, bolded just like that). According to a scratched and peeling sticker on the cover it was $7.98 from Barnes & Noble—that’s right, $7.98 for all the soups you will ever need, plus tips on how to make swirled cream toppings, leek haystacks, and sippets (which are, apparently, large croutons). After an extensive perusal I had not only discovered a term for soup I’d never known before—“pottage”—but I was inspired to abandon the inspirational collection for a soup of my own. Harkening back to my early college days it’s a mishmash once again, but one entirely from the garden: in honor of summer afternoons, autumn days, and all that falls in between.

Potato Fennel Soup with Eggplant

1/2 onion sliced

2 cups chopped fennel (mostly bulb with some frond)

2 cups cubed potatoes

2 small or one medium eggplant sliced

2 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup milk

salt & pepper

In a large soup pot saute onions in olive oil until translucent. Add fennel, potatoes and eggplant, cooking until potato pieces are lightly browned and eggplant is soft. Add hot broth and 1/2 cup milk, simmering until the potato is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper and blend with a hand blender or in a food processor until creamy, leaving a few chunks for texture. Serve with chopped fennel fronds sprinkled on top.

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