A few months ago I mentioned this amazing soup I had at one of our favorite local restaurants - fennel and broccoli soup. I'm actually not the biggest fan of broccoli, which is a little ironic considering I'm vegetarian (or am I???) and broccoli is such a powerhouse vegetable. I don't know - I just don't react very well to it and don't enjoy that bloated feeling (TMI, sorry). Which is surprising because I can eat half my weight in beans everyday with no problem. But I absolutely loved this soup - maybe because in soup form, the broccoli was cooked to within an inch of its life. And I absolutely LOVE fennel in any form. This past week I started craving it again, so out comes my trusty soup pot.
Creamy Fennel and Broccoli Soup
olive oil and butter for sauteeing, about a tablespoon each
half a large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 stalks celery, diced
1 fennel bulb (trimmed of stalks and leaves), diced
florets from about half a head of broccoli
vegetable broth (about a quart maybe? more or less.)
salt and pepper
flat leaf Italian parsley
about 1/4 cup of grated sharp white cheddar
a generous dollop of mascarpone cheese, plus more for garnishing (live a little, right?)
more parsley or chives for garnishing (optional)
1. Heat olive oil and butter in a heavy-bottomed soup pot. I like combining the olive oil and butter for flavor, and butter has such a low smoke point so adding olive oil helps prevent it from burning.
2. Saute the onion, celery, and fennel. Add a little salt and pepper (season as you go, as Barefoot Contessa says), and let it cook until the vegetables are softened.
3. Add the garlic and let it cook till fragrant. Throw in the broccoli, then add the vegetable broth.
4. Let it come to a boil, then lower the heat to simmering. Cover the pot to let everything simmer for a while.
5. Add the parsley. Using a hand blender, puree everything until smooth. Add the grated cheddar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the mascarpone cheese until it melts into the soup. Garnish with a small dollop of mascarpone cheese or a drizzle of your best olive oil, and more chopped parsley or chives if you like.
This soup is so good - and so good for you. The small amount cheddar adds a little richness, without making it taste like the typical scary-orange broccoli cheddar soup that actually looks like melted cheddar with occasional bits of broccoli (no thanks). The mascarpone cheese adds a really nice, creamy consistency to the soup without a ton of heavy cream.
This can also be made dairy-free if you prefer -- obviously omit the butter, and then add a small or medium potato, peeled and chopped, along with the other vegetables. When it's time to puree everything, the potato adds a little more thickness and creaminess to the soup.
If you want an even more velvety and silky mouthfeel, you can strain the soup through a sieve before serving. But I didn't have enough patience for that. ;-)
As you can see, I didn't have patience for adding the garnish either...sorry I couldn't make it "pretty" for the blog...too hungry!