Creamy Fennel Soup with Herb Salad
- 5 bulbs fennel with stalks and feathery green tops (2 1/2 to 3 pounds)
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 8 cups chicken stock
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/8 teaspoon finely ground fennel seeds
- 6 diagonal-cut slices baguette
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 3/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Remove the greens from the fennel stalks, chop them, and reserve. Cut the fennel bulbs and stalks into coarse pieces.
Heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until soft, 7 minutes. Add the 1 clove garlic and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Increase the heat to high. Add the chopped fennel and the chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the fennel is very tender, 15 minutes. Allow to cool slightly.
Puree the soup, in batches, in a blender until very smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean soup pot. Add the cream, and season with salt and pepper.
In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and lemon juice. Add the reserved fennel greens and parsley, toss to coat, and season with salt and pepper. Set the herb salad aside
Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the ground fennel seeds and stir for 30 seconds. Add the baguette slices in a single layer, and cook, turning once, until golden on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes total. Season with salt, to taste. Remove the baguette slices from the pan and rub each piece lightly on 1 side with the clove of garlic.
Warm the soup over medium heat. Ladle it into bowls, place a baguette slice on top of each, and top each slice with some of the herb salad. Serve.