Bridgehampton, NY and Pea & Fennel Soup

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In mid-September, we snuck in a five-day visit to Bridgehampton, New York.  This was a trip we made at least once each year from Boston, but it is quite a hike from Denver... and have you ever rented a car at LaGuardia before?  Total chaos.

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But once you arrive in the Hamptons, it is always worth the trip.  Generations of Rob's family have lived in Bridgehampton.  I love that we drive on "Halsey Lane" and that he points out places owned by relatives I have yet to meet.  We missed the annual family reunion weekend this year, but we still managed to see a bunch of family.... and we avoided the craziness that comes with the peak of summer.

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We tried to sneak in all of our favorite activities in one trip, in addition to a lot of sleeping and relaxing.  Rob and his Uncle P fished for (and caught) striped bass at Mecox Beach, we went clamming in Noyack, strolled around Sag Harbor and Southhampton, ate ice cream at Candy Kitchen, drank wine and listened to music at

Wölffer Estate

, enjoyed local seafood to our heart's content with my in-laws in Montauk, and enjoyed leisurely family cocktail hours that blend into dinner where we catch up on each other's lives and marvel at how relaxing and beautiful a place can exist so close to Manhattan.

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This year, Aunt A treated me to a special afternoon of farmer's market perusing while our husbands played golf.  We started at a staple that we visit each year - Fair View Farm.  I'd been harassing Rob to do the

corn maze

 (maize?) with me all week, but I settled for local peaches and tomatoes, a raspberry-peach pie, and homemade buratta (SO delicious).  We made a few stops at roadside stands on our way to

Loaves & Fishes

, a Hamptons establishment where you may just find

Anna Pump

, the famous owner and cookbook author, behind the counter (she got me a chocolate croissant and autographed my cookbook).  You can also buy the most expensive prepared food on earth (I'm not exaggerating) and take a cooking class (next visit!).  Instead, I bought one of her cookbooks so I could bring a little bit of Long Island to Colorado.

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Returning home from Bridgehampton marked the end of our summer travel and a return to normal life, including cooking.  I couldn't wait to get back in the kitchen to try some of Anna Pump's recipes and just to feel at home again.  I love traveling, but I am relishing the fact that we are home

every

weekend in October.

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I was intrigued by this soup because of its simplicity and my love of peas.  This was my first time cooking with fennel.  I knew Rob would be turned off by its inclusion, so I didn't tell him -- and I knew it was safe to reveal my secret after I received an e-mail at work stating, "The soup is good" (high praise from Rob, my toughest critic).  The fennel doesn't add an anise flavor as you might expect, but instead just gives the soup a little kick - a bite, without being spicy.  The end result is flavorful and delicious.  I considerably reduced the cream in this soup and think you could get away without including it at all.  Also, this is easily turned into a vegetarian soup by using vegetable stock.

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Pea and Fennel Soup

Adapted from

The Loaves and Fishes Cookbook

Yield = 8 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons safflower oil (I actually had safflower oil, so I used it - I am sure olive oil will work just fine)

2 cups peeled and coarsely chopped white or yellow onion

1 large fennel bulb, coarsely chopped

4 1/2 cups chicken stock

1 cup dry white wine

3/4 teaspoon ground pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 10-ounce packages of frozen peas, thawed

1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)

Fennel springs (for garnish)

Preparation

1.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan.  Add the onion and fennel and sauté over a low heat for 5 minutes.

2.  Add the chicken stock, wine, pepper, and salt.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes.  Remove from the heat.  Add the peas, cover, and allow the soup to cool for 30 minutes.

3.  Puree the soup using an immersion blender (you can also use a food processor or blender and puree the soup in batches).  Return the soup to the saucepan.  While reheating soup over a low flame, add the cream (if using) and stir.  Serve garnished with fennel sprigs and salt and pepper to taste.

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