Recipe for tomato, orange and fennel soup
The lightest of summer confections, this heady tomato, orange and fennel soup brings together flavors from the Mediterranean Rim. When I was tossing ingredients into the pot, I envisioned this as a warm soup; Chelsea, my summer intern, and I tasted some for lunch on the day we made it, and we pronounced it gentle and very French. After the leftover soup sat in the refrigerator for a day, I ate (drank?) it icy cold for lunch. Wow. The slight licorice flavor of the fennel popped out a bit more in the cold soup, without being overpowering, and I added some salt and pepper to boost the seasoning. If you don't have smoky, slightly hot piment d'Espelette, you really should, but you can substitute smoked paprika and some mild red chile flakes. And if you don't have fennel pollen or ground fennel, reach for that crock of herbes de Provence that's hiding on your spice rack. This is a soup for all to enjoy: super skinny, vegan, gluten-free, and refreshing on a hot summer day. It would make an elegant first course for a fancy dinner party.
Tomato, orange and fennel soup
Serves 4; can be doubled.
2 large tomatoes, cores removed, seeded, roughly chopped
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, roughly chopped
Juice of 2 navel oranges, plus enough additional orange juice to make 2 cups
2 cups water
1/4 tsp piment d'Espelette pepper, or more to taste
1/2 tsp ground fennel pollen
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp sherry vinegar
In a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy stock pot, bring the tomatoes, fennel, orange juice and water to a boil. Then, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the fennel is soft and translucent.
Carefully remove the solids and place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Purée as finely as possible, then return the solids to the soup pot. Season with piment d'Espelette and fennel pollen. Continue cooking for 10 minutes.
Pour the soup into a large bowl through a fine-mesh strainer. Using a wooden spoon or ladle, press down on the solids to extract every bit of liquid from them. Discard the solids, and return the broth to the pot. Season with salt and pepper, and add the sherry vinegar. Simmer for 5 minutes to allow the flavors to come together.
Taste, and adjust seasoning as needed with salt and pepper. Serve warm, room temperature, or cold.