This is a waste not, want not dish that uses vegetable scraps otherwise destined for the compost pile. Over the holidays, I served fennel multiple ways and stockpiled the woody stems, cores and trimmings. With one large bulb still intact, I set out to make a delectable soup with the fennel, a stray leek, a couple of carrots and a large yellow potato.
The trick here was to create an aromatic vegetable broth at the same time that the chopped vegetables were slowing sweating in butter in a covered pan over low heat. All the scraps – carrot peels, leek greens, and fennel trimmings – were simmered in salted water for nearly an hour while the vegetables softened and concentrated their sweet flavor. I added crushed fennel seeds and salt, and the strained broth to finish cooking for about 15 minutes before pureeing the soup with an immersion blender. I left it a little chunky and garnished it with little snips of fennel fronds. The soup was as refreshing and delicious as it was frugal.
Fennel and Carrot Soup
1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs with stalks and leaves
2 large carrots
1 large leek (or onion)
1 large yellow potato such as Yukon Gold
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
You need two pots for this soup: one large one to cook the vegetables and another to cook the vegetable broth. Trim the fennel and chop the cores, woody stems and other trimmings into small pieces and add to the stockpot. Reserve fennel fronds. Peel the carrot and slice the ends, adding them to the stockpot. Trim the white and light green parts of the leek and slice a good portion of the green leaves for the stockpot. Peel the potato and discard the peel if dark and coarse or add to the stockpot if light and waxy. Cover the scraps with cold water, add a tsp or so of salt and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 45-60 minutes while the soup vegetables are cooking.
Melt butter in the soup pot. Chop all of the prepared vegetables into ½ inch pieces and add to the pot, stirring to coat them with butter. Add a little salt. Cook over medium heat for a minute or two and then covered over very low heat until the vegetables are soft. The carrot will take the most time.
Strain the vegetable stock and add it to the soup ingredients to cover, reserving the rest to thin the sop if needed. Add crushed fennel seed. Simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes until all ingredients are soft and falling apart. Puree using an immersion blender or food processor and season with additional salt if needed (fennel pollen salt would be awesome) Serve warm with snipped fennel fronds on top.