As promised, I am providing the next recipe from our New Years Eve Dinner Party. Today I am sharing the soup course. Just as a reminder, here is the menu from our dinner:
- Appetizer Course – Chicken and Asparagus Molds
- Soup Course – Zucchini and Fennel Soup
- Fish Course – Crabe au Coulis d’Avocat
- Salad Course – Beet Salad with Tangerines
- Entrée – Tournedos of Beef with Tarragon Butter
- Dessert Course – Flourless Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Coulis
I find the soup course to be one of the most difficult choices in the entire menu plan. First there are so many options to choose from; hot or cold, cream based, clear broth or in between. Second, I want the soup course to be a perfect balance with all of the other courses. As a result, it is usually the last recipe I decide on when finalizing my dinner menu. This year I went with a hot (the courses on either side of the soup were served cold), vegetable based soup.
Zucchini and Fennel Soup
- 1 large fennel bulb – 8 small fronds reserved, bulb cored and sliced 1/2 inch thick
- 2 tbl fresh lemon juice
- 2 tbl extra virgin olive oil
- 1 3/4 lbs zucchini, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick – does not have to be precise but close.
- 1 large onion, sliced thin
- 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, smashed
- 1 quart chicken stock
- fresh ground pepper
- 1/2 cup creme fraiche
- I begin by slicing the fennel, zucchini and onion on my mandoline. All of the slicing is done at once as mise en place. A knife works just as well but the mandoline is faster! In a medium saucepan, cover the sliced fennel with water. Add the lemon juice, a large pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on low heat until the fennel is tender when pierced with a knife – at least 20 minutes, longer at higher altitudes. Drain the fennel and set aside. In a large pot, heat the olive oil. Add the zucchini, onion and garlic, season with salt and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are just softened. Take care not to allow the garlic to brown during this cooking process. Add the chicken broth and the cooked fennel. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until the vegetables are completely softened. Working in batches, puree the soup mixture in a blender. Be careful not to overfill the blender as the hot mixture will erupt when the blender starts up. I find it is best to fill the blender to a little over halfway and then start the blender in stir mode, increasing the speed to puree gradually. During this process it is best to hold the top of the blender with a towel. Place the pureed soup in a clean pot and repeat the pureeing process until all of the vegetable/broth mix is pureed. Season with salt and pepper. At this point you can either place the soup in the refrigerator to serve cold or gently reheat until hot and serve. Ladle the soup into shallow bowls and garnish with the creme fraiche and the reserved fennel fronds.
This is a great way to use up the abundance of zucchini everyone seems to have in the late summer. Served cold, with the chicken and asparagus molds, this would work pretty well as a late summer dinner. I’ll have to remember this in August! Tomorrow, the Fish Course – Crabe au Coulis d’Avocat.