This is a simple yet artful soup. While many pureed carrot soups call for ginger or curry, fennel, whose foliage, seeds and bulb can all be eaten, infuses the delicate aroma and flavor of anise (reminiscent of licorice and tarragon). As an added bonus, the carrots add a natural saltiness.
8 large carrots cut into one-inch pieces
1 sweet yellow onion, large diced
1 large bulb of fresh fennel, large diced
½ cup water
5 cups water
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried marjoram
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground fennel seed
1 cup water
1. Spread the onion and fennel evenly into a 13×9-inch baking dish; place the carrots on top (so the onions and fennel do not get dried out) and pour in a half cup of water. Cook uncovered at 375 degrees for 45-50 minutes, or until carrots are easily pierced with a knife and lightly browned.
2. Transfer the roasted vegetables to a large soup pot and add the remaining ingredients (except for the last 1 cup of water). Cook at a lively simmer for 15-20 minutes until all vegetables are very soft. Add the remaining 1 cup of water (this cools the temperature slightly before blending and will thin the soup a bit).
3. Next, blend the soup until it is smooth (or to your desired consistency) using an immersion blender (blending right in the soup pot) or by transferring the soup to a blender (in a couple batches) and then back to the pot. If you like, use a potato masher first to break down the veggie chunks. Serve garnished with slices of fennel stalk (as shown), or fresh chopped basil or tarragon.
Preparation: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes to bake, and 20 minutes to simmer
Makes: 4 big bowls (2 cups each) or 8 cups.
Since carrots are featured in this soup, try to find the best-tasting organic carrots you can, usually at farmers markets or local farm stands.
Fresh fennel is commonly found in grocery stores; ask for it if you don’t see it. It usually has long, dark green stalks growing from the bulb; cut these off before dicing the white bulb portion.
Try using whole nutmeg here (instead of pre-ground); the flavor is a cut above (you will need to use a grater with tiny holes for this or a Microplane grater).
This soup is meant to be pureed but feel free to leave some chunks in by not over-blending it.
If you don’t want to roast the vegetables (in step 1), you may boil them, and add the ingredients in step 2. Roasting, however, brings out the sweetness of the vegetables and gives this soup a more interesting flavor.