Saturday, April 13, 2024

This cabbage, fennel and bean soup is a lesson in seasoning to taste

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The art of making soup was a mystery to me when I was a child. Although my mother cooked well and often, whenever I had a bowl of soup to cure a cold or for a quick meal, it came from a can. (Sorry you like that, Mom.) Of course, I’ve since learned that soda-worthy soups are easily within reach as long as you take your time creating flavor and know how to make them. season properly.

A good example is this humble and comforting soup made with cabbage, fennel, tomatoes and white beans.

The star is a whole (small) head of cabbage – one of my favorite vegetables. My first instinct was to throw an onion into the mix, but I instead opted for the sweet, aniseed flavor of fennel to change things up a bit. Fresh fennel looks a bit like celery’s cooler cousin, with its layered bulb, protruding stems and frilly fronds. This may seem complicated if you’re not used to handling it, but there’s no need to be intimidated.

To slice the fennel, I start by separating the stems from the bulb. I quarter the bulb down to the root end, remove any dry or hardened outer layers (if any), cut off the hard core, then cut the bulb against the grain. The fronds can be treated like herbs, so remove them and save them for a garnish. With the stalks, you can simply slice them like you would celery and cook them with the sliced ​​bulb, or save them for stock.

Get the recipe: Cabbage, fennel and white bean soup

Once the cabbage and fennel are prepared, the pair are put in a saucepan with a little dried thyme, salt and pepper and slowly begin to melt into submission, softening and softening over time. Next come the beans for earthiness and protein (there’s no need to drain and rinse them), tomatoes for a touch of acidity and umami, and vegetable broth for the liquid required. A few more minutes and you have a pot of soup ready to enjoy – almost.

At the end of almost every stovetop recipe is a key directive that seems to elude some: Taste and season with more salt and pepper, if desired.

Also called seasoning to taste, this instruction is essential in recipes, because everyone’s taste buds are different. What’s delicious to one person may be bland to another, and salt is often the biggest factor in that perception. “Not only is salt one of the five tastes, but it also affects others,” my Post Food colleague Becky Krystal wrote in an article about salt myths. “Salt reduces bitterness. It enhances aromas, which play an important role in our perception of flavors, beyond simple taste.

7 myths about cooking with salt

Due to health warnings about consuming too much salt and the fear of preparing something too salty, I was once very cautious of this mineral. But in culinary school, I conquered my fear. During one session we started with a simple soup and were told to keep adding salt and tasting to see how the flavor changed. After adding a certain amount of salt, all the ingredients seemed to fall into place and the flavor came together. It was like a light bulb had gone off. I recommend trying it at home with a soup or stew that you make often.

How to use salt correctly is my go-to answer when people ask me what the most important thing home cooks need to learn in the kitchen is. Exactly how much salt to add to make a dish taste good depends on each individual, but most dishes may contain more salt than you think. (Of course, you have to be judicious, because there’s a difference between well-seasoned and salty.) And for those who want to limit their salt intake, you can always season to taste by adding more of the other seasonings called for in the recipe. recipe, or an acid, such as lemon juice or vinegar.

Although I preach about the benefits of following recipes as written, I make it a policy not to skip the last step. And if – or rather when – you make this cabbage, fennel and white bean soup, don’t forget to take into account the sour cream added at serving time when you season to taste.

Get the recipe: Cabbage, fennel and white bean soup

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