Creamy Fennel Soup

Posted by hsimpsongrossman on December 16, 2013

I was in second grade when I had tasted fennel for the first time. 

A new girl arrived in our class, Abigail, after having spent a year or so in America.  She was the most beautiful girl I have ever seen, spoke English and French, dressed impeccably, so polite, refined and cosmopolitan that each and every one of us wanted her to be her best friend.  Well guess what-I was the lucky one!  She became my best friend, and still is to this day!

Back to second grade and fennel.  One day during the morning break, Abigail was noshing on slices of a whitish-greenish looking raw vegetable, which smelt a bit like licorice.  I grew up on fruits and vegetables and was always exited abut a new one.  Abigail said it was fennel, let me taste some and explained that she is trying to eat healthy thus bringing it to school!  At seven and a half!  I loved her even more instantly.

Growing up, we weren’t accustomed to fennel in my house and for some reason haven’t adopted it in our cooking then.  Abigail remained my main supplier of it through high school.  I’ve bumped into fennel here and there throughout the next few years in Israel, mainly in Mediterranean dishes, but never tried cooking with it.

My fennel renaissance has begun when I started having kids, and more specifically, when I started nursing.  Thank God, I had never had any problems nursing and my milk supply was much more than necessary.  However, reading somewhere that eating (and drinking, in the form of tea) fennel increased milk supply, caused the built in super-mom alarms in me to go off and I simply had to have even more milk (just to give you a senses of how unnecessary that boost was, during nursing periods we have no room in our freezers (two, thank you), except for bags of breast milk and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.  And no, don’t worry; I will not give you an “On the Spot” re how to stock up on breast milk today..  Even I have my limits.)

At first, for nursing purposes, I’ve added one sliced raw fennel to my supper. Later, when we came back to Israel, it seemed everyone was cooking everything with fennel all winter long!  So I happily joined the club and nowadays I add fennel to sauteed chicken, to my antipasti trays, to chicken and vegetable soups.  I make salads with it both as a main and side player.  And we still just enjoy eating it raw, with some salt and pepper.

In this creamy soup, fennel takes the lead role, supported by zucchinis for some body and thickness as well as leak and onions for elegance.  It’s very easy to make and looks like a million dollars with its white- wintery appeal and lacy fronds garnish.

In our house we are divided into two camps: those who love pureed – thick soups and those who like clear soups with lots of chunks of vegetable and such in it.  Over the years we’ve reached a compromise, accepted on both parties, whereby I puree some of the soup while setting aside some chunks.  This way, as seen in the pictures, we get a pretty creamy soup with chunks (one might call it a case of puree your chunks and eat them!?).

I keep white pepper in my spice drawer and for a perfect white-wintery soup look that is the better choice, but black pepper works just fine.

 

Creamy Fennel Soup on the Spot: chop and slice vegetables. Cook them. Mush them. Voilà!

Creamy Fennel Soup

Yield: 8 first-course servings

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons olive oil

5-6 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed, sliced, lacy fronds chopped off and reserved

1 large leek (white and pale green parts only), thinly sliced

1 large onion, chopped

1 1/2 pounds zucchini, cut into 2-inch cubes (you may keep the peel on if you like so (we do))

6-8 cups chicken or vegetable broth (or water), depending on level of thickness desired

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper (preferably white pepper, for a perfect white winter soup look, but black pepper works just fine)

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Salt, to taste

Preparation:

Heat olive oil in a heavy large pot over medium-high heat.

Add onions and leek and saute until they are transparent.  Add fennel and zucchinis and cook until they begin to soften, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Add broth, just to cover the vegetables (you may add a bit more if you like your soups runnier).

Bring to a boil and add salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Reduce heat to medium.  Cover with lid slightly ajar and simmer until zucchinis are tender, about 10 minutes.

Working in batches, puree soup in a blender or with an immersion blender.

Return soup to pot and rewarm over medium heat, stirring often, thinning with bit more broth/water if necessary, until you reach desired consistency.

Divide soup among bowls and garnish with reserved chopped fennel fronds.

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