New Take on an Old Classic

By Chuck Fuller

Chuck Fuller is owner of Metro Specialty Products, a catering company aimed at medium- to high-end clients. He can be reached at charles.fuller@mchsi.com or 279-5922.

A cold winter afternoon, with no interest in running to the market, gave birth to this simple twist on a classic staple. I just happened to have the fennel left from a braised root vegetable medley we used for an event.

Tomato Fennel Soup

1/2 fennel bulb, sliced thin and diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup diced onion

1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seed

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 cups vegetable juice (such as V8 or your favorite store brand; I used Aldi’s brand, which has less salt)

2 cups crushed tomatoes

2 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup grated Romano cheese

1/2 cup half & half, heavy cream or condensed milk

Salt and pepper to taste

In a 6-quart sauce pan, sauté the first four ingredients in the oil over medium heat for about 7 to 10 minutes. Do not let your garlic brown. You want the vegetables soft and the oils from the fennel seed to release.

Add in the wet ingredients and let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.

Once the soup is hot, add in the milk. Puree to a smooth texture. Be sure to let the soup cool a bit before you do this step. If you have a hand held blender, you may do this step right in the sauce pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Garnish with a bit of the Romano cheese and serve with your favorite grilled ham and cheese sandwich.

We had it with Virginia ham and Swiss cheese grilled with curly endive on wheat berry bread with honey butter. Yum!

This a super fast and simple cold weather treat. Enjoy!

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