I don’t know what I was thinking. I have never cooked with fennel before. I have eaten it maybe five times in my life and am completely clueless about how to use it and what to combine it with.

Why, oh why did I buy six heads of it? Maybe it’s because they were really cheap - $3 for the whole lot – or maybe it’s because they looked fresh and crispy. There was something exotic looking about them that I thought would add interest to my week. But whatever the reason for my impulse purchase, when I looked in the fridge this morning and realized I had to use them before they started wilting, I was none too pleased.

I asked my Twitter followers for some help, but not a one responded. (Click here to follow me!)

I checked several cookbooks and blogs but couldn’t find anything appealing.

Then I chanced upon a recipe for a Cauliflower Fennel Soup in Eating Local by Janet Fletcher. I made a soup based very loosely on this one, and it was fantastic! I took quite a few liberties – adding star anise and fennel seeds to the stock, along with LOTS of garlic to the sauté. Wow. The flavors were mild but so unusual. The soup was creamy, rich and packed with taste. Definitely a keeper.

Cauliflower Fennel Soup (based very loosely on a recipe from Eating Local by Janet Fletcher)
I hardly ever make stock for soups, but I thought this one would need the extra flavor. I highly recommend you take the extra step of making a stock, and that's how I've written the recipe. If you're rushed, try it with water instead. (Be sure to let me know how it turns out!)

For the Soup: 
1 tablespoon canola oil
4 medium onions, sliced in rings
3 heads of fennel (white part only), sliced in rings
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
a dash of black pepper
12 ounces frozen cauliflower

For the stock:
1 carrot, scrubbed and chopped in a few coarse pieces
1 stalk of celery, cut in four
1 potato, scrubbed and cut in large chunks
1 onion, left unpeeled, cut in large chunks
1 head of garlic, left unpeeled
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 piece of star anise

For the soup, heat the oil in large pot. Add the onions and fennel and sauté over medium-low heat, stirring from time to time, for about 30-45 minutes till the vegetables are nice and soft and beginning to caramelize.

Meanwhile, combine all the stock ingredients in a pot. Add four cups of water and bring to a boil. Let the stock boil while the vegetables cook.

After the soup vegetables have sautéed for about 30-45 minutes, add the garlic, salt and black pepper, and sauté for another minute or two till the garlic is fragrant. Add the cauliflower.

Strain the stock and discard the vegetables. Add the stock to the soup vegetables and bring to a boil. Cook for about an hour.

Puree the soup using an immersion blender. Serve hot, garnished with fennel leaves if desired. 

Come join Soup-a-Palooza at TidyMom and Dine and Dish sponsored by Bush’s BeansHip HostessPillsbury and Westminster Crackers

Fennel Bulb on FoodistaFennel Bulb