The last time I had fennel soup was at Dirt Candy last spring in the East Village. It was out of this world good pureed and topped with a swirl of mustard green pesto and pickled mustard seeds. I may be one of the lonely few that adores fennel, but the fennel in this soup is subtle. It’s meant to compliment the peas and not be overpowering. B doesn’t like fennel at all and actually enjoyed this soup.
It may be too early for shelled peas at the farmer’s market, and of course I wasn’t patient enough to wait, so I settled on fresh shelled English peas at Whole Foods. Fennel is at peak season right now through Fall.
The butter lettuce and almond milk add body and richness to the soup. You could leave out the almond milk and add more broth if preferred. The butter lettuce is local and grown in Brooklyn at a place called Gotham Greens that make high quality lettuces and basil. It’s a soup that is light and could be served at room temperature which is perfect for the warmer days on the horizon.
Fresh Pea and Fennel Soup
loosely adapted from Giada’s Feel Good Food
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped
2 shallots, chopped
sea salt and black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
4 cups torn butter lettuce leaves
2 cups shelled fresh peas
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
pea shoots, for garnish
In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat until melted. Add the fennel and shallots. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until softened. Add the garlic and lettuce. Cook for about 1 minute until wilted. Add the peas, broth, and almond milk. Stir and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes until peas are tender.
Stir in the fennel seeds and remove pot from the heat. Puree the soup in batches in a food processor or blender. Return the soup to the same pot and warm over medium-low heat. If the soup is too thick, thin it out by adding more broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with pea shoots.