Do most people go to farmer's markets with a list? Or a menu they are trying to shop for? If so, I must be the minority type of patron. While I seek out bargains and stick to a list for pantry items, I am extremely impulsive when it comes to buying fresh produce. Most times I see something that looks particularly fresh or intriguing. Something that would normally cost a fortune at the local supermarket. Take fennel bulbs, for instance. They cost $3+ at the grocery store, but fresh from the fields....$1.50 and !
Anyway, once home with my fennel this week (or okra or pattypan squash) the question always comes up, what am I going to do with that thing? I've made a raw shaved fennel salad on this blog, so now it's time for a soup. This one is actually pretty healthy and dairy free. I really enjoyed the sweet and subtle anise flavor of this soup. Don't leave out the fennel oil...it really makes the soup stand out!
Carrots and fennel caramelize when roasted at high heat, then release their sweet essence when blended. A drizzle of fennel-seed oil echoes and intensifies the fennel flavor.
Carrot Fennel Soup
1 medium fennel bulbs with fronds
5 carrots, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, sliced
1 garlic clove
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
Special equipment:an electric coffee/spice grinder
Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in lowest position.
Chop enough fennel fronds to measure 1 tablespoon and reserve. Discard stalks and remaining fronds. Slice bulb 1/4 inch thick and toss with carrots, onion, garlic, 2 tablespoons oil, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Spread in a 4-sided sheet pan and roast, stirring occasionally, until browned and tender, 25 to 30 minutes.
Blend vegetables in a blender with broth until very smooth. Transfer to a medium saucepan. Thin to desired consistency with water and simmer 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, finely grind fennel seeds in grinder and stir into remaining 2 tablespoons oil.
Serve soup drizzled with fennel oil and sprinkled with reserved fronds.
Soup can be made 1 day ahead and chilled. Serves 4.
Fennel oil can be made 2 days ahead and kept at room temperature
Recipe is adapted from Gourmet Magazine, November 2008