Fresh fennel blossoms are bewitching. (They are called umbels, by the way. Isn’t that a great word?) Chopping the teeny-tiny flowers releases the most wonderful perfume. It is summer incarnate. The fennel in my garden right now looks like fireworks, and I figured that the bees wouldn’t mind if I stole away just a little of their pollen.
But the idea of a warm bowl in near 100F heat was definitely out of the question. Luckily, this is a soup that works chilled as well.
The thing is though, I’ve never really been enthusiastic about cold soup. I really don’t find myself on a scorching hot day saying “OOO. What I could go for right now is a big bowl of soup.” I might, as I did on Monday night, eat a whole bowl of salsa with chips for dinner. And I’ve certainly enjoyed a few fresh veggie juices. But my most fond memory of cold soup is from Red Dwarf. Soup is a little respite from a cold winter day. It’s like a blanket in a bowl. I have no religion about chunky versus creamy but I do like my soup hot.
This week, I was more than happy to serve myself a creamy bowl of cold. I had my fill of salads and sorbets already and I really did want to make that soup.
So, yesterday, I got up early when the house was still a “chilly” 75F to cook the soup. Luckily, even though I first had to make my own stock, I was done with the stove within about an hour, before the kitchen was sweltering. Then both the soup and I chilled… it in the fridge, me in the basement. By the late afternoon, when the lower level of the house was no longer much of a haven, I turned to my bowl of soup.
I really was just excited about the cold. My expectations really weren’t all that high beyond that. I knew the flavors were nice as I was seasoning, but I wasn’t sure if they’d hold up once chilled.
And in fact, the flavors do get more subtle when chilled. But that, as it turns out, isn’t really a drawback. In fact, it’s kind of a nice. The soup still has that grassy, anisey flavor of the fennel blossoms, but it doesn’t make a big deal about it or anything. It’s happy to just be a silky golden spoonful of summer. Just what the weatherman called for.
I may just be reconsidering my stand on cold soups.
adapted from The Herbal Kitchen
The original recipe uses chicken stock, but I substituted a quick veggie stock and a little dry white wine. Also, my fennel bulb was a bit on the small side, so I added some potato… which I think added to the thickness of the soup.
2 T unsalted butter
2 c leeks, white part only sliced
2 potatoes, 1-inch dice
2 c fennel bulb, 1-inch dice
1/2 c dry white wine
3 1/2 c veggie stock
1 T fresh fennel flowers or fennel pollen
salt and pepper to taste
a fruity olive oil to garnish
Heat the butter in a heavy bottom soup pot, and add the leeks and cook over medium-low heat until they are soft and translucent. Add the potato and fennel bulb and then deglaze with the wine. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for another 30 minutes.
Add the fennel flowers (or pollen), then using an immersion blender if you have one (or blending in two batches if you are using a standing blender), puree until smooth. Then, puree just a little longer, just in case.
Return to the pot, and bring back to a low simmer. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve hot or chill for at least an hour. I like mine garnished with a drizzle of a really nice olive oil. A few extra fennel flowers are also a nice addition.