Meet Jess O'Toole, the writer and photographer behind the stunning food blog La Domestique. Every Tuesday on her blog, Jess shares her ten favorite ways to cook with her ingredient of the week. In this column, Jess expands on one of those ten techniques.
This week: Jess calls on the earliest spring vegetables for a smooth, fragrant fennel soup.
Photos by Jessica O'Toole
This week at La Domestique we open up the spring pantry. Winter is officially behind us, and our cooking is inspired by light, delicately flavored ingredients. The garden is ready to be planted with peas, lettuces, and radishes. Our palates crave fresh flavors, and so the first ingredient of the spring pantry is just what we need right now, something green and herbal: fennel.
Available year round, fennel is at its best during spring and early summer. Look for firm, white bulbs with perky green fronds along stiff stems. Famous for its hefty anise aroma, the taste of licorice may turn some away, but cooking fennel mellows the flavor. Reading David Tanis’ Heart of the Artichoke, I was immediately drawn to the recipe for Fennel Soup with a Green Swirl. Writing down the list of ingredients and filling the shopping basket with grand bulbs of fennel, a bundle of scallions, leafy parsley, and fragrant basil is uplifting in itself. After the dull, gray days of winter, the color green is most welcome in the kitchen.
This soup calls for sliced fennel to sauté in hot olive oil with garlic and onion, then simmer in water or stock until tender, mellowing the flavors. A handful of long grain white rice gives the soup body reminiscent of comforting potato soup. The green swirl is a pesto made with vibrant herbs and fennel fronds, which adds a light and fresh note to the nourishing bowl.
Enjoy this simple recipe as a Saturday lunch or paired with something elegant and festive for supper -- maybe roast lamb or fish? As are all the recipes in Heart of the Artichoke, this fennel soup is well-suited to entertaining. Once puréed, the soup sits happily on the stovetop over low heat while other dishes are prepared. Soup exhibits hospitality with comfort, generosity, and love. What better way to welcome spring to the table than with David Tanis’ fennel soup?
Fennel Soup with a Green Swirl
From Heart of the Artichoke by David Tanis
For the soup:
1/4 cup olive oil
3 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed (reserving fronds), cored and cut into very thin slices
1 large onion, cut into thin slices
4 medium cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup (raw) long-grain white rice
6 cups no-salt-added chicken broth, or as needed (may substitute water)
For the swirl:
1 cup coarsely chopped fennel fronds (from the fennel bulbs)
Leaves from 4 to 6 stems flat-leaf parsley (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup packed basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped scallions , white and light-green parts
1/2 cup olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
In a creamy springtime soup is just one of the ten ways Jess likes to enjoy fennel. See the other nine: 10 Ways Tuesday: Fennel.
Like this post? See Jess' topic from last week: Citrus Recipe Round-Up.
Jess writes the blog La Domestique, a site dedicated to cooking in the moment with ingredients from the pantry and garden.