TOMATO FENNEL SOUP
1 Tbsp butter
2 medium onions, diced
3 cups fennel, cored and diced (reserve the tops)
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Small branch of fresh thyme
2 small branches of fresh oregano
2 strips of orange peel
6 cup peeled, seeded tomatoes, roughly chopped
1½ qts vegetable stock, chicken stock or water
2-3 tsp salt
1 tsp cracked black pepper
Finely diced fennel tops
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
Drizzle of good olive oil
Tie the thyme branch, oregano branch and orange peel(bouquet garnish) together with butcher twine and set aside.
In a large soup pot heat the oil and butter on medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for 4 minutes or until the onions are starting to soften and wilt. Add the fennel, garlic and the bouquet garnish and continue cooking for 4-5 minutes or until the fennel begins to soften and become aromatic.
Add the tomatoes and stock and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.
Remove the bouquet garnish with a metal tong or spoon and let the soup cool for a bit. Puree the soup in a Cuisinart and strain through a wide mesh strainer or use a food mill to puree. Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste.
At this point the soup can be chilled and then packaged and frozen. It makes a great base for future fall and winter soups such as seafood stew or a white bean and leek soup. If you are serving the soup right away, finish the soup by adding the fennel tops and chopped thyme. Garnish each bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and shaved Parmesan.