Yield: Yields 5-1/2 cups.
Servings: four to six.
Loaded with fennel and potatoes, this hearty tomato soup is perfect with a grilled cheese sandwich, but a fresh spinach salad would make the meal too. For an elegant twist, try puréeing the soup (see tip below). The Pernod is optional, but we highly recommend including it because it enhances and deepens the fennel flavor beautifully.
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In a nonreactive 4-quart saucepan, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the fennel seed and cook until fragrant and lightly brown, about 3 minutes. Add the fennel bulb, leek, and Pernod (if using) and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.
Add the broth, tomatoes, and potato. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through, 30 to 40 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve chunky or purée in a blender. If you purée the soup and it is too thick, add some of the reserved tomato juice. Garnish with chopped fennel fronds, if desired.
This soup can be puréed in the blender for a velvety version of the original. Be sure to work in small batches and crack the blender lid slightly (or remove the center cap from the lid). Steam can build up once you start blending, and if the lid is on tight or the blender is overfilled, it will spray hot soup all over you and your kitchen. For protection, cover the top with a dishtowel while puréeing.
Really liked this soup for a change of pace. I pureed the soup and added extra Pernod. I thought it needed a bit more. I think the suggestions to add more Pernod is spot on.
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