A seductive hint of anise livens up this healthy starter
It’s autumn in our part of the world. Which means soup season! Time to ladle up this beet-and-fennel charmer.
The gorgeous color of beets and the anise undertones of fennel combine to make a perfect first course. This soup is full of flavor, but it’s not particularly caloric. So it will awaken your taste buds without filling you up.
You’ll even have room for dessert.
Recipe: Beet and Fennel Soup
We like to serve this soup hot. But go for chilled or room temperature if you prefer.
This recipe is very lightly adapted from one we found in Judith Barrett’s Saved by Soup.
Prep time for this recipe is about 15 minutes. Cooking adds another 30 to 40 minutes.
This dish serves 4 to 6 as a starter.
Leftovers keep for several days if refrigerated in an airtight container.
- ~1 pound beets (usually 1 bunch)
- 1 medium onion (we like to use red onions, but any variety will do)
- ~8 ounces fennel (1 medium or 2 small bulbs)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste; see Notes)
- 5 cups water (may substitute chicken or vegetable stock)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice or balsamic vinegar (optional)
- sour cream or yogurt for garnish (optional)
- Wash the beets. Cut off the stems and root ends. Peel the beets, then dice them roughly. Place the beets in a 4-quart sauce pan or soup pot.
- Peel the onion and cut it into dice of ½ inch or so. Add the diced onion to the soup pot.
- Rinse the fennel and remove the stalks and green tops (you may want to reserve some of the fuzzy fronds for garnish). Cut the bulb(s) into dice of ½ inch or so. Add the diced fennel to the soup pot.
- Add salt and water to the soup pot. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then partially cover the pot. Cook until the beets are tender – usually 30 minutes or so.
- Use an immersion blender to process the soup until it’s smooth enough for your taste (we like to leave it a bit chunky). Taste the soup, and add more salt if necessary. Add the lemon juice or balsamic vinegar, if using (we find that adding some acid helps brighten the flavor of this soup).
- Ladle the soup into serving bowls. Garnish each bowl with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt, if desired.
- Beets “bleed” when you cut them, so they can stain. We generally use disposable gloves and a plastic cutting board when working with them. You may still get a bit of staining, but a household cleaner that contains bleach will get rid of that immediately.
- Beets usually are sold with their greens. If the beets are young, you can use the greens raw in a salad. Otherwise, cook them as you would spinach or other greens.
- The color in beets doesn’t break down in your digestive system. So it can tinge your urine and stool. Just an FYI.
- Fennel, like coriander, is both a herb and a vegetable.
- Fennel is said to cleanse the palate and aid digestion. That’s why some Indian restaurants serve fennel seeds at the end of the meal. Italian hosts (especially in Sicily) often serve raw fennel (the bulb, cut into wedges) for the same reason.
- We use an immersion blender to break up the beets for this soup (Step 5). We suggest using one with a steel (not plastic) shaft. Hot liquid can crack plastic (ask us how we know).
- If you prefer to use a food processor or stand blender instead of an immersion blender, here’s how: Let the soup cool. Add the beets, onion, and fennel to the machine with just enough of the cooking liquid to cover the mixture. Pulse until the beets achieve the consistency you prefer. Then reheat the soup and serve.
- For garnish, we like to use full-fat sour cream – but low-fat works too. Greek yogurt would also taste great.
- We use kosher salt, which is less salty by volume than regular table salt (its large crystals don’t pack as densely). If using regular table salt, use about half as much as we suggest.
Soup of a Different Color
“Yum,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Gorgeous soup. And the fennel must feel very stylish wearing beet red.”
“No doubt,” I said. “This recipe came through with flying colors.”
“Makes me feel like composing some poetry,” said Mrs K R. “Beets are red, but fennel’s not blue . . . .”
“Your poetic talent leaves me green with envy,” I said.
“Lemon makes me pucker up,” continued Mrs K R, blowing me a kiss. “And so do you.”
Such a colorful character, that Mrs K R.
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