Fennel became one of my favorite vegetables a few years ago. We like to buy a bulb or two every so often as a special treat. It’s not always easy to find at the grocery stores here in Utah like it was when we lived in New York. Sadly, all the fennel I planted drowned in our heavy spring rains. I was so excited when what I thought was fennel started poking up in random places in my garden. I made my husband laugh because every day I’d run in and say, “I think it’s fennel! Yesterday I thought it was dill, but I’m sure it’s fennel today.” Then the next day, “Oh. I think it’s really dill.” They look exactly alike when they first start growing. And then there was the chard/beet uncertainty. We’ve finally decided it’s chard after much debate with each other and our neighbors. :)
But back to fennel. People either love it or hate it. Me? I had to slowly warm up to that delicious anise-y flavor. I really like it fresh, like in these salads using fennel and orange. And warmed up in sauces or roasted, or in soups…there are so many ways to eat fennel. Did I mention that it’s super healthy too?
Ocean Mist Farms in California sent eight large fennel bulbs for our family to enjoy. This creamy soup is the first thing we made. I’d been wanting to make a cream of fennel soup and adding zucchini just seemed like a natural thing to do. Zucchini and fennel go very well together. So, courtesy of Ocean Mist Farms and my neighbor’s garden, we had a tasty soup.
That lovely yellow dust is as magical as pixie dust. It’s fennel pollen. Up until a few weeks ago, I’m sorry to say, I didn’t know a thing about fennel pollen, let alone how to use it in the kitchen. It sort of special and expensive. You can find it online from several websites, and if you’re in Utah, Caputo’s Market is the place to go. Fennel pollen tastes like fennel on steroids. It’s incredible. If you don’t have it, no worries. You can use toasted fennel seeds or roughly chopped fennel fronds instead.
Cream of Fennel and Zucchini Soup with Fennel Pollen
2 fennel bulbs, stalks and fronds removed, thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
4-6 cups homemade vegetable (or chicken broth)
2 medium zucchini (no larger than 8″), cut into 1/4″ rounds
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper, to taste
fennel pollen, for garnish
Place sliced fennel and onion into a large pot. Cover with the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Cook until fennel and onion are softened. Add the zucchini and continue simmering for a few more minutes, until zucchini is cooked through. Puree in blender or use an immersion blender. Add the heavy cream. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
To serve, ladle into wide, shallow bowls and sprinkle with fennel pollen.
Makes about 4 large servings.
(p.s. My husband wanted me to say that this is more of an appetizer as his manly appetite was not satisfied by a simple bowl of soup. I say serve it along side a salad and add bread for a light summer or early fall dinner.)
Thanks to Ocean Mist Farms for the fennel they sent our family to try. We’ve loved every bite!