This delicious simple-to-make soup comes from the October Sunset Magazine, which describes it thusly: “A smooth, silky, understated first course – the Greta Garbo of soups.” I don’t know about just being a first course or about being Greta Garbo. With a salad and some wonderful hearty whole grain bread, it’s a meal, a soup that causes your tongue to say, “More, please.” And fennel’s one of those weird veggies you see in the market and say, “What the hell is THAT!” So it’s nice to find a lovely soup recipe that uses its wonderful weirdness. (Fennel's also known as sweet anise, but don't be alarmed. The slight licorice smell nearly disappears leaving an elusive flavor. As I said, one of those weird veggies, like parsnips. You can't describe the taste of parsnips without using the word "parsnip," as in, "It tastes . . . parsnippy." Fennel's the same way. It's . . . fenneley. . " )
I made it both with and without the watercress, and I think I prefer without. It’s such a subtle, soft soup I think the watercress is a bit too loud, but try it both ways and see for yourself. The garnish of crumbled blue cheese is a perfect flavor note. Both our local Ralphs and Vons had fennel but no watercress, but New Frontiers has such fresh lovely fat fennel bulbs and they carry watercress regularly. Enjoy.
Fennel apple bisque
1 ½ lb. fennel bulbs (about two large bulbs or 3 medium)
2 large Fuji apples
1 large onion
1 c watercress (if wished)
1 box (4 cups++) low sodium chicken stock (or veggie stock)
spices to try: pinches of white pepper, powdered ginger (if you don’t use the watercress, adds a bit of bite, or use fresh grated), curry powder, garm masala, poultry seasoning (the poultry seasoning was particularly apt for some reason), sage. Sniff and experiment. The soup is so subtle, you'll need to use an easy hand so as to not overwhelm the fennelness of it all.
Trim root end and stalks from fennel. Chop. Peel, core and chop apples and onion.
Saute onion in butter/olive oil until softened. (5 minutes) Add four cups chicken broth, fennel, apple and bring to a boil. Simmer until fennel is soft, 15 – 20 minutes. If you’re using watercress, stir in 1 c.and cook until wilted.
Puree with immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender. Season with whatever spices are called for. Garnish with crumbled blue cheese.