Monday, March 14, 2011

White Bean Fennel Soup

This light and healthy fennel soup was absolutely delicious. It's packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber and was a huge hit alongside our grilled cheese sandwiches at dinner tonight. My kids even loved it!

I found this fennel bulb labelled as anise in my local supermarket's produce section. Since I have never purchased or cooked with fennel before, I was hesitant to pick it up. It looked like what I was looking for, but it said, "Anise" not "Fennel". This was definitely a produce dilemma. I needed guidance. I tracked down a young man working in the department and politely waited for him to conclude the conversation he was having with a co-worker. After a period of time that I would describe as awkward, I finally cleared my throat "Ahem" and asked if they had any fennel. He promptly led me to the stuff labelled, "Anise". Ah-ha! Just as I suspected! "But it SAYS anise," I pointed out. You know, just in case he didn't notice the improperly placed sign. He just shrugged and replied, "It's the same thing." Now go away lady, I want to get back to flirting with this cute cashier...

His answer wasn't good enough for me. Anise? Like the stuff they make black licorice out of?! No way was I making soup with that! I despise black licorice...although, surprisingly I don't mind those cookies with the anise seed that we get around Christmas-time. Still, I couldn't imagine that flavor in this soup recipe. Good ol' Google. I checked it out.

On a site called "The World's Healthiest Foods" I found this information:

"Although they share a similar taste profile—reminiscent of black licorice—fennel and anise are two different plants. The botanical name of anise is Pimpinella anisum while the botanical name of fennel is Foeniculum vulgare. Both anise and fennel belong to the Apiaceae family.

In addition to the fact that they share a similar flavor, what often creates confusion among these two plants/foods is that fennel is often referred to as anise. Since the whole plant (bulb, stalks, fronds) of fennel is consumed while it is usually just the seeds from the anise plant that are eaten, if you see a vegetable-like plant called "anise," chances are that it is actually fennel."

"The Gilded Fork" confirmed the claims of "The World's Healthiest Foods" stating, "In fact, many American supermarkets mislabel fennel as “anise”, perhaps because both have at their base the aromatic compound anethole (also found in chinese star anise)."

Here is a picture of the FENNEL that I used.

As directed by the recipe, I thinly sliced it. It did smell slightly like anise, but luckily the taste was super subtle- not like black licorice at all.

I sauteed the fennel with a chopped onion in olive oil until both were tender.

Then I stirred in the spices, a can of diced tomatoes, a can of butter beans (the recipe called for white kidney or cannellini, but I had butter beans, so I improvised), and chicken broth. Bring the soup to a boil, then cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

To finish, stir in 3 cups of chopped baby spinach and cook a few minutes longer until the spinach wilts.

Salt and pepper to taste and serve! This really is a simple and delicious vegetable soup. We ate ours with grilled cheese sandwiches, but it would also be great with a nice, rustic bread.

Here's the recipe from the February/March 2003 edition of Light and Tasty magazine:

White Bean Fennel Soup adapted slightly by me

1 large onion, chopped
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 can (15 ounces) white kidney or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14-1/2 ounces)Diced Italian Tomatoes, undrained
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf
3 cups chopped fresh spinach
•In a large saucepan, saute onion and fennel in oil until tender. Add
the broth, beans, tomatoes, thyme, pepper and bay leaf; bring to a
boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until fennel
is tender.
•Discard bay leaf. Add spinach; cook 3-4 minutes longer or until
spinach is wilted. Yield: 5 servings.

Nutrition Facts: One serving (1-1/2 cups) equals 152 calories, 3 g fat (trace saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 976 mg sodium, 23 g carbohydrate, 7 g fiber, 8 g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 1 starch, 1 vegetable,


chow and chatter said...

wow great soup wish I liked fennel

Melissa @IWasBornToCook said...

Fennel has always been one of my favorites! This looks delicious.

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