December 3, 2012 § Leave a comment
J: This soup was entirely Erik’s idea. In fact, when he suggested we make it, I was honestly pretty skeptical — I’d heard fennel tastes kind of like licorice, which I never liked as a child and haven’t really had the opportunity or desire to try since. So, I wasn’t too thrilled about fennel soup, but Erik usually has good food judgment (except with spicy things, in which case don’t trust the man unless you want your tastebuds seared off), so I went with it and didn’t mention my reservations.
Best. Decision. Ever. This soup was amazing. Erik made it while I was at yoga one night, and I came home to the apartment smelling divine. It is a really easy soup to make, and pretty cost-effective, and even if you have never touched fennel in your life you should go buy some right now and see what you have been missing. I don’t know if the soup tasted like licorice, but if it did, then I am annoyed at my child-self for disliking it and causing me to pass up years of deliciousness.
(slightly modified from original recipe here)
1 large yellow onion, chopped roughly
4 cloves garlic, chopped roughly
2 large (or 3 medium) fennel bulbs, trimmed (fronds reserved)
4-6 c vegetable stock
1/4 c rice
Salt and pepper to taste
You will want to start by cleaning the fennel. This can be a somewhat obnoxious process, only because the fronds are kind of huge. If you like, you can cut off the fronds and wash them separately — that may help everything fit in your sink. Anyway, once everything is washed, set the fronds aside; you can use them to make fennel pesto while the soup is cooking. We’ll get to that in a bit.
Chop up onion and garlic, and then deal with the fennel in pretty much whatever way seems to make most sense to you. This is a blended soup, so everything is going to get puréed regardless and it doesn’t really matter how pretty your chopping is here.
In a large pot, heat up some olive oil and add the onion, garlic, and fennel. Sweat these ingredients over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes (you can add a pinch of salt here to help the process along if you want). You want to try and make sure that nothing starts browning or caramelizing in this time, so keep an eye on the ingredients, especially the onions. If they caramelize they will develop a slightly different flavor profile that will affect the overall flavor of the soup, and may overpower the fennel a bit.
Season with salt and pepper, and add enough vegetable stock to just about cover the contents of the pot. Add the rice here as well — according to the original post, it acts as a thickening agent in the soup. Interesting!
Incidentally, you will notice that our soup is something of a reddish color. That is because of the stock we use — it’s much redder than most stocks, so if you use a different stock your soup will probably be much paler, sort of white/yellow/greenish. Don’t let the color difference throw you!
Bring the soup to a boil, and then reduce it to a simmer. Taste the broth and see how you’re doing on seasoning — adjust salt and pepper to taste if necessary. Let the soup cook for about 20 minutes, checking and stirring intermittently.
When the soup is done simmering, it’s time to blend. If you have an immersion blender, that’s the way to go here. Transfer the pot to the sink if you want to be safe and have relatively easy cleanup, and blend until smooth. Otherwise, transfer the soup in batches to a stand blender or food processer and again blend until smooth.
Now, I said earlier that you should reserve the fronds for fennel pesto. If you’re so inclined, it’s a good idea to make this pesto while the soup is still simmering! It’s very easy, I promise, and it adds another layer of flavor to the soup.
1 c (ish) fennel fronds, chopped roughly
2 tsp (ish) basil (we used dried, you can use dried or fresh, but adjust amounts accordingly), chopped or torn roughly
1/4 c (ish) parsley (we used fresh — again, you can use dried or fresh, but you’ll need to adjust amounts. Also, you should probably use at least one of these herbs fresh, otherwise your pesto might be a little on the strong side), chopped or torn roughly
1/4 c Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 c pine nuts
Salt and pepper to taste
Basically… toss everything except the olive oil, salt, and pepper into a food processor. Start blending, and add some olive oil a little bit at a time, blending in between (or during, if your food pro can handle that without splashing pesto everywhere) until you get to the desired consistency. You’ll want it to be smooth, but you can decide how watery or paste-y you want it to be beyond that. Taste and add salt and pepper as you desire.
Garnish the soup with a bit of the pesto, and grate some cheese on top if you like. Obviously, this soup can very easily be vegan if you omit the cheese and pesto (or make cheese-less pesto? never tried, but I imagine it’s doable!). Enjoy!