Roasted Cauliflower & Fennel Soup with Pistachios

Roasted Cauliflower and Fennel Soup with Pistachios (vegan/gluten-free)

It’s amazing how people change as they grow older. When I was a kid, I used to think that when I grew up, I would eat cookie dough and ice cream (or cookie dough ice cream) for every meal. You know, because I was grown up and could eat whatever I wanted, and why wouldn’t I want to eat cookie dough and/or ice cream? And nothing else.

But now look at me. Eating vegetables, and everything!

I’m exaggerating, of course. I actually liked vegetables more than the average kid. However, there were quite a few things I didn’t like then, that I do now. I didn’t like olives, or brussels sprouts, or blue cheese, or barbecue sauce (I know, what’s wrong with me?!), and I certainly didn’t like fennel.

But, as I later learned, most of those dislikes came from not having the foods prepared properly. As it turns out, brussels sprouts are amazing when cooked well, and fennel can be so much more complex and subtle than I ever knew possible. (Don’t ask about the barbecue sauce thing — I’m giving that one up to my taste buds developing / coming to their senses as I got older.)

Roasted Cauliflower and Fennel Soup with Pistachios (vegan/gluten-free)

Listening to my parents talk about growing up on canned vegetables and dry, overcooked meat, it’s no wonder so many people are picky eaters. Even now, my dad will tell me about new things he’s discovering he likes which he never, ever thought he could based on his experiences with them as a kid.

I was fortunate to grow up eating pretty well, and liked most of the foods I tried. The few things I didn’t like have turned out to be because I had a bad introduction to them in some way or another, and I’ve since found better ways of preparing them.

One of my favorite methods for preparing vegetables is roasting. Roasted beets? Like candy. Squash and sweet potato, too. Cauliflower was made for roasting, because it deepens the flavor without turning it to mush, à la steaming or sauteing. And don’t even get me started on roasted garlic!

As for fennel, roasting both mellows and enhances the flavor. It takes a bulb that once intimidated me, and makes it warm and approachable. Pair that with a handful of crushed pistachios, and I’m won.

Roasted Cauliflower and Fennel Soup with Pistachios (vegan/gluten-free)

What foods have you learned to like, or grown to love? Were there any foods you liked as a kid that you don’t like now? Let me know in the comments below!

Roasted Cauliflower & Fennel Soup with Pistachios
Makes 4-5 servings

1 large head of cauliflower
1 small bulb of fennel, reserve the fronds
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
3-4 TBSP olive oil
½ tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. Whole fennel seeds
4-5 cups low sodium vegetable stock*
black pepper to taste
pinch of cayenne, to taste
pinch of nutmeg, to taste
Crushed pistachios and fennel fronds, for garnish

*for a richer, creamier soup, replace 1-2 cups of stock with milk

1.   Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2.   Cut the cauliflower in half and remove the core and leaves. Chop roughly into florets, and place in a large bowl.
3.   Cut the fronds away from the fennel bulb, and set them aside. Wash the bulb thoroughly, then cut in half and remove the core, and any outer layers that are loose or damaged. Cut into chunks roughly the same size as the cauliflower florets, and add them to the bowl. Peel the garlic cloves and add them to the bowl.
4.   Toss the fennel, cauliflower, and garlic with the olive oil and salt until well coated, and spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 30-40 minutes, or until tender and cauliflower is browned at the edges.
5.   Meanwhile, toast the fennel seeds in a dry pan over medium heat until fragrant and slightly darkened in color. 2-4 minutes, stirring frequently.
6.   Add the roasted cauliflower, fennel, and garlic to a large pot along with the vegetable broth and toasted fennel seeds. Puree with an immersion blender until smooth. (Or, transfer the cooked vegetables straight from the oven into your blender, along with the vegetable broth and fennel seeds, and puree until smooth (this should be done in batches). Then pour into a large pot on the stove.)
7.   Heat over medium-high until the soup is warmed through. If the soup is too thick, add a bit more stock. Add the cayenne, nutmeg, and salt and pepper, to taste.
8.   Serve warm with crushed pistachios and a few sprigs of fennel for garnish.

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17 Responses to Roasted Cauliflower & Fennel Soup with Pistachios

  1. Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes December 18, 2013 at 5:54 pm #

    This is such a beautiful soup Willow- I actually LOVE raw fennel with vegan olive tapenade :) Growing up I was fortunate to have access to a large summer veggie garden my dad grew each year- I was never a picky eater with the exception of raw onions; they would literally make me gag! My Mom and Dad were pretty basic eaters so we never had “exotic” vegetables such as sweet potatoes, red cabbage, brussells and swiss shard until I was in my early 20’s! Both my Parents have been exploring a bit more with their veggies and dishes, which I always love hearing about!

  2. Eileen December 18, 2013 at 8:33 pm #

    This soup sounds so perfect for the depths of winter! Super hearty and warming, and of course full of delicious vegetables. :)

  3. Sue/the view from great island December 18, 2013 at 11:07 pm #

    We’re on the same page today— I posted a wild mushroom soup with this same earthy feel. I love fennel, so I will have to try this. Gorgeous photos!

    • Willow Arlen December 20, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

      Yum — love wild mushrooms! I’ll have to check out that recipe. :)

  4. Jennie Phaneuf December 18, 2013 at 11:29 pm #

    I was one of those weirdo kids that ate anything and everything. This soup looks wonderful. I love fennel. Pinned.

    • Willow Arlen December 20, 2013 at 9:45 pm #

      Heheh, thanks, Jennie! I wasn’t a very picky eater as a kid, either. I remember people giving me weird looks because I loved steamed broccoli so much. Only a small handful of things come to mind as things I really didn’t like, and most of those have changed now. :)

  5. DessertForTwo December 19, 2013 at 12:21 am #

    This is beautiful, Willow!

    I used to dislike asparagus as a kid. My dad would grill it and spritz it with lemon juice, and force me to eat just one. Then, I found myself in college doing the same thing and eating almost half the bundle at a time. I believe your taste buds change every 7 years. Why 7? Not sure. But I know things I used to dislike I’m obsessed with now: raw onions are my favorite thing lately! Used to hate ’em.

    Lovely photos, as always. You inspire me!

    • Willow Arlen December 20, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

      Oooh, asparagus was a big one for me. Growing up, one of our neighbors actually had a field of asparagus, and for awhile I worked for her harvesting the field. It has to be picked in the middle of summer, so you get up early to try to beat the heat, but it’s still blistering hot by the time you’re done. The smell would get all over my hands and clothes and everything, and for a long time I just hated the stuff. That thing about tastes changing ever 7 years must be true, though, because eventually I got over it and love asparagus now!

  6. Abby December 19, 2013 at 1:51 am #

    I’m ready to warm up over a bowl of this yummy soup! I ate a lot of weird things as a kid, I hated fish though and that has definitely changed :) One weird thing I LOVED as a kid (and still do) is cream cheese and green olives on crackers…I have no idea how it started but it’s so good!

    • Willow Arlen December 20, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

      Okay, I seriously have to try that cream cheese and olives thing. Yum!

  7. Erin | The Law Students Wife December 19, 2013 at 3:10 am #

    Roasted parsnips! Had no idea how wonderful they are, and I feel like I’ve been missing out for years. I love mixing them with roasted carrots for a warming winter side. (PS. Fennel is a new one for me too :))

    • Willow Arlen December 20, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

      Oh, same here – I love oven roasted parsnips and carrots! I bet they would make a delicious soup, too. ;)

  8. Elena F December 19, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

    Ahhh, wholeheartedly agree about roasted vegetables! I recently discovered how good roasted sweet potatoes and parsnips taste.
    Will definitely have to try to cook this soup over the weekend!

  9. shannon weber January 4, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

    i was JUST talking about brussels sprouts with my mom, in reference to how a grown adult person i know swore she *hated* them until i roasted them for her (versus whatever sad way they had always been presented to her in the past) – she LOVED them and is now a brussels convert. So true when you compare the availability and quality of vegetables in the past versus today: even when i was little, i never remember seeing the variety of things in the produce section as i do now. We had lots of canned veggies too as a kid, and although it didn’t put me off veggies entirely, it’s taken a readjustment to some of them now that i know what their fresh counterparts taste like (so much better). i love what you did her with the cauliflower and fennel here: such a comforting soup for the winter. and the pistachios? i’m all over that part too. :)


  1. Cooked Three Ways: Cauliflower - designing "the life" - September 16, 2014

    […] food blogs of late, Will Cook for Friends, has this lovely looking soup in their recipe archive: Cauliflower and Fennel Soup with Pistachios. A great recipe to enjoy as the chill seems to be setting in early this […]

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