Fennel Soup with a Swirl

From Bonnie Tawse
Serves 4-6

Up until she was 30 or so, Bonnie hated fennel because it smelled like black licorice. And, she says, “I loathe black licorice.” But then one summer afternoon, her brother-in-law, who is a farmer and caterer in Boulder, made a mess of sliced fennel that he caramelized and then sprinkled with shaved Parmesan. “I took a bite just to be a nice person and then had one of those transformative food moments. I said, ‘Wait, this is fennel? This is amazing.’ And since that afternoon I’ve been happy to try fennel in all sorts of preparations. I have a lot of lost time to make up.”

She got this recipe, adapted from one found in David Tanis’ cookbook Heart of the Artichoke, which was just nominated for a James Beard award, in a roundabout way thanks to the soup swap she hosted last month. A friend of a friend approached her at the gym and said, “I heard you had a soup swap! That is so cool! I love soup, I make soup all the time! I am so jealous I didn’t know about it.” She went on to praise the “bad-ass” fennel soup of their mutual friend, Tracey. Says Bonnie: “We got to talking, we talked about soup for almost an hour and then the next day she emailed me Tracey’s recipe.” The next week they wound up going to Re-Thinking Soup, at Hull House. “She had never been,” Bonnie says, “didn’t know it existed.”

Soup: It just keeps on giving.

Ingredients

Soup

1/4 cup olive oil
3 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed (reserving fronds), cored and cut into very thin slices
half of a large white onion, cut into thin slices
2 shallots, cut into thin slices
4 medium cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup (raw) long-grain white rice
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth

Swirl

1 cup coarsely chopped fennel fronds (from the fennel bulbs)
Leaves from 4 to 6 stems flat-leaf parsley (1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon capers, drained
1/2 cup packed basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped scallions, white and light-green parts
1/2 cup olive oil
salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the sliced fennel, onion, shallots, and garlic. Season generously with salt and pepper. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring often, until the mixture has softened and picked up a little color.
 
Add the rice and the 6 cups of broth. Increase the heat to medium-high. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed. Cook for 20 minutes.

Working in batches transfer the soup to a blender and puree; remove the center knob in the blender lid and place a dish towel over the opening to allow steam to escape. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into the pot that was used to cook the soup; discard any fibrous solids. Place over medium-low heat. If the consistency is too thick, add broth as needed.

While the soup is warming, make the green swirl: Rinse and dry the blender, then add the fennel fronds, parsley, capers, basil, scallions, oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Puree on high speed until smooth, then transfer to a small bowl. 
 
Ladle equal portions of soup into individual bowls, Swirl a tablespoon of the green puree into each bowl.

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