White bean and tomato bisque with fennel, black olives, and red peppers
Our little Clio is overbearing. If you’re human and she doesn’t know you, she needs
to meet you, and try to scale you, vertically, and kiss you on the cheek. If you’re a dog, of any size or age. She LOVES you. She wants to put her paws around your neck and lick your mouth. She knows you want to play with her! She just knows it!! That’s what it means when you growl and snap at her, right? If you’re human and she knows you – watch out. If she hasn’t seen you for ages and ages, like five whole minutes
, she will launch herself at you, and hover in the air before you furiously pummeling with two white paws. She will flip around like a happy fish, tangling herself in your legs and trying to knock you over, so (if you’re one of my sons) she can dance joyfully all over you. If you’re cooking, she feels compelled to stand on her back legs, paws grabbing the edge of the counter, or sit on your feet, in case you need help. At night she starts at the foot of the bed but slowly slithers her way up till her head is on your pillow. You push her back, and she slowly slithers up again, to make contented grumbly whuffly noises in your ear. She’s so excited for her food that she’ll frantically gobble it down before it even hits her bowl. She’s relentless. She’s too much for some people. But not for me! I love her merry exuberance. Obviously I’m cool and insouciant, now, but there was a time in my life when I was overbearing, too. I was so excited to get into class and have the right answer and share things I liked. I was always super eager for dinner, though I’ve never gone so far as to empty the bowl before it even hit the table. I remember, once, seeing a teacher roll her eyes at my eagerness. And I remember how that felt – the sudden realization that I was annoying. And I have to tell you that trying, awkwardly, to be less annoying only makes you more annoying. To be honest, I’m still too eager to share recipes and music and anything else that I like. I still talk way too much, especially when I’m nervous or excited. Yesterday at our conference with Malcolm’s teachers they told us that he’s bright and kind and getting good grades. But…he’s growing too fast! His arms and legs are too big and he doesn’t know what to do with them! He has too much energy, and he can’t contain it! He can’t sit still, he can’t keep to himself. That’s right, Malcolm is overbearing, too. I could hear the little eye roll in their voice as they labeled my son a certain way, whilst expressing their fear that he would be labeled a certain way. I could hear the annoyance in the way they said his name, and I know that he could hear it, too. And I imagine that would make him nervous, and I know him, nervousness makes him antsy so he can’t sit still. Yesterday was a rough day, and I felt undirectedly angry. I yelled at Malcolm a little bit, because I’m worried. And then we sat on the couch and snuggled, we had a good talk, we studied for his science quiz. He was calm and peaceful and attentive, just like we all know he can be. And my overbearing puppy jumped up and curled next to him, because she finds his calmness and strength reassuring (how do I know? Well, that’s what she told me!) What a day!
This soup is full of overbearing and assertive flavors, yet the combination is smooth, unusual, and very flavorful. I’ve been wondering for some time now why I’ve never encountered olives in a bisque. (Picture me, walking down the street, scratching my head. Why? Why? Why no olives in bisques?) They go so well with other flavors! I love olives with fennel and tomatoes. I love cauliflower in a puréed soup, because it makes it smooth and creamy, I love tomatoes and roasted peppers and smoked paprika this time of year. So that’s the kind of soup I made. The boys ate it over pasta as a sort of sauce, but I thought it was lovely all on its own. With plenty of flavors that mingle well together.
Here’s My Adidas by Run DMC. Malcolm has been wearing an old pair of adidas I had, so I just played this song for him, and he used some of his legendary energy to show off his moves.
2 T olive oil
1 t dried rosemary, or one long stalk fresh, leaves only
1 t red pepper flakes, or to taste
2 bay leaves
1 t smoked paprika
1 shallot – minced
2 cloves garlic – minced
1/2 medium-sized bulb fennel, diced (about 1 heaping cup)
1 cup cauliflower florets, chopped
1/2 cup roasted red peppers
1/2 cup pitted black olives
1/3 cup dry red wine
1 can white beans, rinsed and drained
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes or two medium-sized fresh tomatoes peeled, seeded and chopped
1 T butter
salt and plenty of pepper
In a large soup pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the shallots, bay leaves, rosemary and pepper flakes, and cook for a minute or two until the shallot starts to brown. Add the garlic and continue to cook until that starts to brown. Add the fennel and cauliflower. Stir to coat, and cook for about five minutes, until the vegetables start to soften and turn brown. Then add the olives and peppers, stir to coat. Add the red wine, and cook until it’s reduced and syrupy, about five minutes. Add the white beans, stir and cook for a few minutes, then add the tomatoes.
Add enough water to cover by about half an inch. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about fifteen to twenty minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Add the butter and balsamic. Purée carefully in batches until quite smooth. Season well with salt and pepper.