Cooking vegetables in season is smart. Fennel, plentiful from fall through spring, is a wise choice for a cold weather soup. With its mild anise-like flavor coupled with the meaty umami quality of mushrooms, fennel is delicious in this robust vegetable soup.
Fennel is a root vegetable with a white or light green bulb, protruding stalks that look like celery and green feathery leaves that look like fronds where its sought-after fennel seeds are hidden. The entire fennel plant is edible, but in this recipe only the bulb is used. The stalks and leaves may be saved for salads. A member of the carrot and parsley family, and related to cumin and dill, fennel has a mild licorice flavor, but is sweeter and more aromatic.
Native to the Mediterranean region, fennel is prized throughout much of the world for its use as a flavorful food. Rich in fiber, vitamin C, other vitamins and minerals, fennel more and more is finding its place in a cancer prevention eating approach. When buying fennel look for white bulbs that are not split or discolored, stalks that are firm and green, and fronds that are not yellowed or slimy. Smell for a fragrant anise aroma. Store fresh fennel in the refrigerator crisper for no more than four days.
It’s easy to cut a fennel bulb; it’s similar to cutting an onion. Cut a bulb lengthwise in half. Place the flat side down on a cutting board. Cut slices lengthwise, about a quarter of an inch apart then cut again across the bulb.
Although much of the cider vinegar cooks off while simmering, it leaves behind a hint of tartness, which is gently amplified with the lemon pepper seasoning. The basil with its initial soft peppery taste evolves into a slightly sweet flavor, complementing the fennel and mushroom flavors.
As the weather turns cooler, a bowl of Fennel and Mushroom Soup can make a satisfying meal by simply adding a piece of crusty whole-grain bread. Served before a main meal, this seasonal soup is sure to provide a warm repast and ward off any chill.
Fennel and Mushroom Soup
- 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive or canola oil
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 medium red pepper diced
- 2 small white potatoes peeled and cubed
- 1 medium celery stalk split and thinly sliced
- 4 cloves fresh garlic thinly sliced
- 1 medium bulb fennel chopped
- 2 cups sliced crimini mushrooms including stems
- 1 tsp. dried basil
- 1 tsp. lemon pepper seasoning
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
In pot or saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, red pepper, potatoes, celery and garlic. Sauté 5 minutes, stirring often. Add fennel and sauté 6 minutes. Add mushrooms and sauté 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add basil and lemon pepper. Stir. Add broth, vinegar and salt to taste. Reduce heat and simmer for about 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Ladle into bowls. Garnish with parsley and serve.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $100 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.
Photographs by Heather Victoria Photography