The perfect rainy spring day lunch, starring the sorriest fennel bulb in existence. I had planned on using the bulb for some days but just couldn't get my act together. Those days included failed blog recipes, meal after meal of leftovers, a sudden burst of food inspiration that ended up in a crabby 10pm dinner, and all without figuring how to work in the fennel bulb I'd bought. I had bought some zucchini at one point to make this soup, but then that aforementioned burst of inspiration came to me and I decided to make a Spanish tortilla with them. The end result was beyond delicious, but it wasn't exactly a tortilla. There's a definite difference between a Spanish tortilla and a frittata. The main difference being that a frittata you just bake. A tortilla you have to flip. I used a pan that was a bit too small for the amount of ingredients I used. I didn't think it would ever set in order to flip it. At that point I just said screw it and chucked it in the oven. I WILL post a tortilla recipe one day. I'll get it. I guess I don't mind trying again and again (I do get to eat it, after all), just so long as I don't start at 8pm. In any case, I needed to make this soup to use my fennel.
This soup is an in between soup - not a heavy winter stew and not a chilled summer vegetable soup. It's creamy, but light. Barely any seasoning lets the flavors of the vegetables come through and it's served with lightly sautéed grape tomatoes and the fronds from the fennel bulb. Like I said, my fennel bulb's future was quickly becoming dismal, and the fronds were getting pretty wilted, but I managed to salvage enough for the garnish. I think this soup would go well with a simple grilled fish. I had had a big breakfast (read, the remainder of the tortilla) and this soup hit the spot for lunch on a grey and rainy day. Rainy days are a fun change from Denver's almost relentless sun (I'm sure a lot of people would hate me for saying that).
So fennel is the main feature in this soup. It's the vegetable with the most interesting flavor. As far as the zucchini goes, you could sub in some yellow crookneck or other summer squash. Leeks would also work well in place of the onion. You could also add in chopped, cooked bacon to the tomato mixture. Bacon is a pretty wonderful soup (everything?) topper. If you don't have fennel seeds, anise would work well too. Cumin seeds would work, also, but it would be a stronger, deeper flavored soup.
fennel and zucchini soup
adapted from Bon Appetit, serves 4
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium fennel bulb, chopped, fronds chopped and reserved
3 small zucchini, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 cups chicken broth
1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
1. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add fennel, zucchini, onion, and fennel seeds. Sauté until fennel is translucent, about 7 minutes.
2. Add broth to pot and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.
3. Puree soup with either an immersion blender or in a regular blender until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. My broth was salty enough that I didn't need any additional salt.
4. While soup is cooking, heat remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add tomatoes and sauté until just heated through, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and mix in 2 tablespoons chopped fennel fronds. Season with salt and pepper. Serve soup with tomato mixture on top.
Enjoy this yummy soup on a dreary spring day!