FENNEL

Foeniculum vulgaris

One word for fennel is versatile.  Fennel can be used as food, medicine, an herb, and even as an insect repellent.  It can be baked, steamed, or sautéed with excellent results.  If fennel is not a food you are familiar with, you might want to crunch on a stem or a slice of the bulb to familiarize yourself with the flavor.  The leaves can be used as an herb for seasoning and the stalks are easily substituted for celery in many recipes.  Fennel is best stored in a plastic bag with the leaves wrapped in a moist towel to prevent them from going limp.  It will store this way for up to 2 weeks.

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Rich Summer Fennel Soup
From Farmer John’s Cookbook

Bouquet Garni
1 sprig parsley, stem only
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
Soup
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium sliced onion
1 to 2 cloves crushed garlic
1 medium or large roughly chopped fennel bulb
1 large chopped carrot
1 medium peeled, cubed potato
2 medium peeled, seeded, chopped tomatoes
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 tbsp Pernod (licorice-flavored liqueur – optional)
1/4 cup heavy cream or silken tofu
salt
white pepper
chopped parsley

To prepare the bouquet garni, tie together the parsely stem, bay leaf, and thyme sprig in a piece of cheesecloth.
Heat the butter and oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, sauté for 1 minute. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute more.
Stir in the fennel, carrot, and potato and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, stock, and bouquet garni.
Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat until the fennel is very soft, about 30 minutes.
Discard the bouquet garni. Let the mixture cool slightly and then puree it in batches in a food processor or blender.  (If you are using the tofu instead of cream, add it now and puree with the rest of the ingredients.)
Return the soup to the pot and stir in the Pernod and cream.  Heat over medium-low heat to allow the soup to heat through but do not boil.  Season with salt and white pepper to taste and garnish with parsley.

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