One thing we always discuss in our workshops is the importance of layering flavors. If a recipe calls for lemon, can you layer in zest and add the juice? Can you finish the dish with some chopped preserved lemon? Layering varieties of the same flavor deepen the overall taste. It's what takes a dish from simple to complex-tasting, even if the technique itself is simple.
So when we decided to start our January Bread Subscription with a seeded sourdough loaf that included fennel seeds, we immediately thought of this fennel tomato soup, adapted from The River Cafe in London. The fennel flavor comes in multiple forms: fresh fennel, licorice-y Pernod, the fennel seeds on the bread and in the flavored butter, and even the fennel frond garnish.
It's the ultimate winter comfort food, elevated.
Tomato Fennel Soup with Goat Cheese Crostini
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium fennel bulbs, cleaned and thinly sliced, fronds chopped and reserved
1 large onion, halved, peeled and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
½ teaspoon chile powder
3 tablespoons Pernod
2 28-ounce cans puréed tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon black pepper
6 seeded sourdough slices
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
6 ounces goat cheese, room temp
- Melt 6 tablespoons butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add fennel, onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Toss to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low. Partly cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in garlic and chile powder; cook 1 minute. Stir in Pernod and cook until almost completely evaporated, about 3 minutes.
- Pour in tomatoes, 1 1/2 cups water and the stock. Bring to a simmer and cook gently, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Season with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and the black pepper. Purée soup in batches using a blender or immersion blender until smooth.
- Transfer soup back to pot over medium heat; simmer until slightly thickened, 5 to 10 minutes more. Scrape down sides and bottom of pot occasionally. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread bread slices on a large baking sheet. Bake until light golden, about 10 minutes.
- While bread toasts, toast fennel seeds in a small skillet over medium heat until fragrant and lightly colored, 2 to 3 minutes. Melt in remaining 1 tablespoon butter.
- Brush toasts with fennel-seed butter and smear with soft goat cheese. Ladle soup into bowls and top with a cheese crouton. Garnish with fennel fronds.