Sustenance on a Cloudy Day: Fennel & Tomato Soup with Preserved Orange Arancini

With daylight savings fresh upon us, it takes some time getting used to the darkness that greets me in the morning. The soft snickering of birds reminds me that dawn is on the rise, along with the subtle, faint glow of a darkened sky.  Every day I hope for sunshine, warmth and beauty, and being in the south, I'm usually blessed with such. But prior to the blossoming of spring, Atlanta has its fair share of cloudy days, that can escalate into stormy weather.  Today began as one such cloudy day, with a spot of rain mid-morning.  I can always rely on a warm bowl of soup and a hearty piece of bread {or in this case, a satisfying arancini} to brighten even the darkest day. As I  prepare my cloudy day sustenance, the thick expanse of clouds has given way just enough to allow a bit of sunshine into my afternoon.  My hearty soup will taste just as delicious, if not more so with a glint of the sun's rays. 

Fennel and Tomato Soup with Preserved Orange Arancini

To make the soup:

3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup thinly sliced fresh fennel, cores removed
1 Tablespoon minced fresh garlic
1 Tablespoon chopped Italian flatleaf parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
3 cups Bella Cucina Passata al Pomodoro tomato sauce
2 slices Bella Cucina Farmhouse Oranges, finley chopped
4 cups chicken stock
ground black pepper, to taste
2 Tablespoons Bella Cucina Tangerine oil
1 teaspoon Bella Cucina Wild Oregano & Sage Savory Salt

In a large heavy-bottomed pot heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, fennel, garlic , parsley, salt and pepper.  Cook until the onions are soft, stirring constantly for about 5 to 10 minutes so the onions do not brown.  Add the passata, minced oranges and stock.   Cover and simmer for 40 to 45 minutes.  Garnish with Tangerine oil and a sprinkling of the oregano and sage savory salt

For the Arancini:

½ cup arborio or canaroli rice for risotto
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups chicken stock
¼ cup white wine
1 shallot, minced
2  garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesean cheese
1 Tablespoon Bella Cucina Fresh Basil Pesto
1 slice Bella Cucina Farmhouse Oranges, minced
1 ½ cup panko bread crumbs
kosher salt, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste
2 quart canola oil

Heat broth on a low simmer until ready to use. 
In a medium- size saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic, salt and pepper  and saute until translucent and soft.  Add the rice and stir until the rice begins to look translucent.  Add the wine and reduce by half, stirring occassionally to make sure all of the rice is evenly coated and does not burn on the bottom. Stir in the oranges.  Turn heat to medium high. Stirring continuously, add the warm broth in 1/4 cup increments. As the liquid evaporates add more broth, stirring constantly,  until the rice is creamy and the texture is al dente. This  will take about 20 minutes.  
 Add ¼ cup of the Parmesan cheese and mix just until blended. Remove the rice mixture from the heat and spread evenly on a butter sheet pan and set aside to cool.  

Put cooled risotto into a large bowl and stir in the pesto.  Form the risotto into evenly shaped balls, about 2 inches in diameter. Up until this step this recipe can be made a day ahead. 
In a wide, deep pot with a heavy bottom that can hold at least 4 qts of liquid, 
heat the oil to 325 degrees.  

Take care with heating the oil as fat expands when heated and  adding ingredients to the pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the bread crumbs, 1/4 cup of Parmesean cheese, and 1 teaspoon salt and mix well.   Dip the  arancini rice balls in the bread crumb mixture until well-coated.  Let the arancini  sit for about 10 minutes to let the breadcrumbs adhere to the rice well.  
Fry the arancini  in batches for about 5 minutes, or until golden brown on the outside and warm inside.  Drain on paper towels and serve along side the soup.

1. Fennel and Tomato Soup {photo via Food52}

Buon appetito! copyright 2012 Bella Cucina

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