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Fennel-Cranberry Bean Soup

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I actually made this Tuesday night so that John would have lunch to take to work on Wednesday.  I got a lot of fennel at Bountiful Baskets last weekend.  I still have more to use.  Whenever there are tomatoes, peppers, or eggplant in the basket, I go around trading them to anyone who will oblige.  Some weeks, are harder to do that than others (especially eggplant week).  Whenever there all-American favorites in the basket people tend to be content with what they have.  Those are weeks when I toss raw vegetables in the blender, make salsa, put fajitas or burritos on the menu, and buy John a big bag of tortilla chips.  John is the only one in the house who can eat salsa. He has to eat all that salsa himself.  That is a tall order some weeks, so often he takes some to church or work to share.   However, last week a lot of people were happy to take tomatoes and peppers and hand over their fennel.  I got two gigantic pomegranates in trade as well.  If any of you have been wary of trying Bountiful Baskets because you cannot control what is coming, know that a little proactive effort can get you a great deal on a lot of great produce.

Back to the large quantity of fennel.  Fennel always makes me think of Italian food.  I really don’t know if that is accurate, but it seems to work in my soup pot.  Since fennel seed is a common ingredient in Italian sausage, I guess I just made the connection from there.  What is your favorite use for fennel?

I chose cranberry beans for this soup.  They are an Italian bean that looks similar to a pinto bean, but has cranberry red stripes and flecks instead of brown stripes.  Once they are cooked the stripes disappear.  They also taste quite different than pinto beans.  I quite like the flavor with the fennel.  This the flavors in simple soup melded well and taste even better as leftovers.  I find my cranberry beans at Kroger near all the other dried beans.  If you can’t find cranberry beans, you could choose a white or red bean instead.

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Fennel-Cranberry Bean Soup

1 lb cranberry beans, soaked
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
3 carrots, sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
1 bulb fennel, divided (bulb and stalks thinly sliced,  fronds minced)
2 tsp salt, to taste

Soak the beans all day (at least 8 hours).  Rinse and place in soup pot.  Cover until the beans are submerged by at least an inch of water.  Bring to a boil.

Begin preparing the vegetables.

Once the beans are boiling, skim the foam from the surface and discard.  Reduce to a simmer.  Cook for about 45 minutes or until almost tender.

Add in everything except the fennel fronds and return to a boil.  Reduce to simmer.  Cook for about 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

Stir in the fennel fronds and adjust salt to taste.  Simmer five more minutes, then remove from heat and serve.

Enjoy!

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