This soup was kind of vaguely thought-out before I began cooking, but was mostly a "throw some things in a pot" kind of creation. Despite this, it turned out really good, especially when served with toasted Olive Oil Bread for sopping up soup liquid.
Roasted Fennel and White Bean Soup:
1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
1 fennel bulb, cut into sections (leave root end intact)
4 cups vegetable stock
1 leek, cleaned well and sliced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
7 oz. crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 15-oz. can Great Northern Beans, drained
3 smallish red potatoes, chopped into small cubes
1 bay leaf
4 garlic cloves, sliced very thin
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tbsp. Sriracha (you can substitute cayenne, but only use 1/4 tsp. and work your way up)
Fresh ground black pepper
Fresh oregano, or herb of your choosing, for garnish
Began by heating your oven to 350 degrees, and line a cookie sheet with foil. Place your fennel sections on the sheet, along with the canned tomatoes. It's a good idea to let the tomatoes sit in a strainer over a bowl for at least 5 minutes, but be sure to save the juice as it will be added to the soup later. Toss the fennel and tomatoes with a liberal amount of olive oil to prevent burning, and salt and pepper well before placing the cookie sheet in the oven.
Let everything roast away, turning about 20 to 25 minutes in, until the fennel is well-browned on both sides, about 45 minutes.
Puree the tomatoes in a food processor. And in a note about tomatoes, I am not bothered by tomato seeds and didn't bother to clean them out of the tomatoes pre-roasting. However, if you'd rather remove them, go for it.
Place a large pot over medium to medium-high heat, and add about 3 tablespoons olive oil. Add your onion and mushrooms, some salt and pepper and saute for about 5 minutes, letting them take on a bit of color. Add the leek and 1 tsp. of the smoked paprika and cook for 2 minutes, before adding the beans, potato, tomato, and garlic, and the liquid ingredients (the tomato juice and the vegetable stock). Once the liquid has been added, add the bay leaf and season again with salt and pepper, as well as additional smoked paprika and Sriracha (or cayenne) to taste.
Let the soup burble away over medium to medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes have softened, about 30 minutes. Once the soup is nearly ready, chop the roasted and cooled fennel and add it in.
Remove about half of the solids in the soup and process them until they are well-blended, then add back into the soup and continue to cook for 3 to 5 minutes to remarry the ingredients.
Serve the soup in a large bowl, with some generous slices of bread and a bit of fresh herbs. You could also drizzle a little bit of high-quality olive oil on top for a bit of richness.