Thursday, February 17, 2011

How a digital camera and fennel changed my life-Lentil & Chickpea Soup

I have always loved photography.

A few years after I graduated from college I found myself living (in sin) in Boston with a man, N, who would two years later become my husband...and father of our five children.
Which I'm sure never ever crossed his mind.
The five that is, not the marriage.

Although we were both working, I found that I had a lot more free time on my hands than I knew what to do with.
Window shopping can only carry you so far.

So N suggested I find a hobby.
And I did.
I signed up for an adult education class (get your mind out of the gutter) on 'How to take better pictures' and showed up at a high school classroom in Brookline; me with my little point-and-shoot and twenty others with their impressive looking SLRs.
Had I read the full description of the class I would have seen...with your manual camera.
Oh well, live and learn.
So N and I worked a few extra shifts and I bought my first SLR.

Boston was a pivotal point in my life. It was the first real city I ever lived in.  And it was the first time I actively sought out my creative side. After my initiation into the world of photography I went on to take composition classes and eventually found my love.
The darkroom.

I shot, developed and printed my own film for many years. It was my place of comfort and solace. I could spend hours down in my basement printing.
And it never got old.
Every time I'd place that seemingly blank piece of resin paper in the developer bath I was amazed by the image that would eventually appear.
It. was. magical.

But it was also time consuming. So when we moved to Alabama (and had two more children) I realized I wouldn't have the time I needed to dedicate to this passion. I was no longer photographing my children, my life.
And I missed it.
So I (begrudgingly) went digital.
And it was a beautiful thing to do.

Once I had taken that seemingly canyonesque leap a whole new world open up before me.
I rediscovered my passion, not for film, but for life.

These days I am rarely without camera in hand, and my learning curve has increased exponentially.
It has also inspired me to try other new things.
Like cooking.
I suppose this obvious.

Which leads me to the point of all of this which is fennel.
Yes, fennel.
Well, I am too.
But not really.
I want keep things interesting, and when I found fennel I found a long lost soul mate. It wasn't a comfort I had growing up, but after using it in this soup I knew it would become a family member alongside our good friends Mr. Carrot, and the lovely Ms. Broccoli.
It looks like muppet and smells like licorice.
Really...what's not to love.
My kids would vehemently disagree.
(They also protest brushing their teeth) 

For inspiration, I was perusing Frank Stitt's cookbook : Bottega Favorita and happened upon his recipe for Lentil-Chickpea Soup.
Frank Stitt grew up in Cullman, Alabama and has brought prestige to the South in Birmingham with his restaurants: Highlands, Chez Fon-Fon, and Bottega.
Consistently nominated for the James Beard award, this gentleman has a gift.
Which is why I was reading his cookbook.
Cover to cover.
So thank you, Mr Stitt, for introducing me to fennel.
This soup is knock-your-socks-off, out of this world.

Chickpea and Lentil Soup
Frank Stitt: Bottega Favorita

2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 red onion, diced
kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon corriander
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored & diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 7 1/2 cups cooked lentils
1 cup canned chick peas, drained
2 cups canned tomatoes
2 1/2 cups chicken stock

Saute garlic in olive oil until brown. Add onion and saute until translucent. Season with salt and pepper. Add parsley and coriander. Then add fennel, carrots and celery. After about 5 minutes add lentils, chickpeas , tomatoes and stock.
Simmer, partially covered for about an hour.


  1. Excellent. I enjoyed reading :)

  2. Nice story and super photos. Good recipe too :-)


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