When I was younger, I grew up hating garlic, most vegetables and spicy food. I was to my mother’s chagrin, a picky eater. It’s interesting how the adult version of me is a polar opposite in ways I never thought imaginable.
Like some of you, I have friends who have certain food dislikes. One can’t stand celery, claiming that it has a smell that she can detect from a distance. Another reserves the same sort of hatred for tomatoes. My good friend Homer, isn’t too keen on fennel; he finds the taste revolting. More’s the pity because to my palate, fennel has a clean crispness and a lightness that’s a whisper of spring.
I love this soup for its color and flavor. Despite its name, it’s entirely vegan. No dairy appears in the recipe. A tablespoon of arborio rice accounts for the soup’s texture and creaminess. The parsley-scallion pesto contributes a lively zing; you can add as little or as much as you desire.
Creamy Fennel Soup, with Parsley-Scallion Pesto
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
freshly milled black pepper
3 cups water
1 tablespoon arborio rice
3 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley
1 scallion, finely minced
juice of 1/2 Meyer lemon
Pour 4 tablespoons olive oil into a large soup pot. Warm over medium heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Add the onion and reduce heat to medium-low. Sauté the onion until it becomes slightly golden, about 5 minutes. Add the sliced fennel to the pot, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Cook the fennel and the onion until the vegetables are tender and fragrant, about another 10 minutes. Add the water. Stir in the arborio rice. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, partly covered. Remove the pot from heat and let cool.
While the soup is cooking or cooling, make the parsley-scallion pesto. In a mortar, add the chopped Italian parsley and scallions, and a small pinch of salt. Pound the parsley and scallions together until the herbs form a smooth paste. Transfer the paste to a small bowl. Whisk in the lemon juice and the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. You should now have a bright green pesto, with a lively flavor.
Working in batches, ladle the soup into a blender or food processor and purée until smooth. Return the soup to the pot and cook over medium-low heat until soup is warmed through. Taste for salt and pepper.
Ladle the soup onto warmed soup bowls. Top each serving with a dollop of parsley-scallion pesto. Serve at once.
This recipe is sized for 2-3 people.
Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes, including prep.