Tomato Soup with Fennel, Leek & Potato

Loaded with fennel and potatoes, this hearty tomato soup is perfect with a grilled cheese sandwich, but a fresh spinach salad would make the meal too. For an elegant twist, try pureeing the soup (see tip below). The Pernod is optional, but we highly recommend including it because it enhances and deepens the fennel flavor beautifully.



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Servings: 4 to 6
Total Time: 30 mins
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Ingredients
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    3   tablespoons 
    olive oil
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    1   teaspoon 
    fennel seed, coarsely crushed or ground in a spice grinder
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    medium fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and cut into small dice (about 2 cups; save some fronds for optional garnish)
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    large leek (white and light-green parts only), halved lengthwise, rinsed well, and cut into small dice (about 1 cup)
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    1   tablespoon 
    Pernod (optional)
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    3   cups 
    lower-salt chicken broth
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    1  28  ounce can 
    whole peeled plum tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped (reserve the juice)
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    medium red or yellow potato, peeled and cut into medium dice
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    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions
1.
In a nonreactive 4-quart saucepan, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the fennel seed and cook until fragrant and lightly brown, about 3 minutes. Add the fennel bulb, leek, and Pernod (if using) and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.
2.
Add the broth, tomatoes, and potato. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through, 30 to 40 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve chunky or puree in a blender. If you puree the soup and it is too thick, add some of the reserved tomato juice. Garnish with chopped fennel fronds, if desired.
Tip:

1.
This soup can be pureed in the blender for a velvety version of the original. Be sure to work in small batches and crack the blender lid slightly (or remove the center cap from the lid). Steam can build up once you start blending, and if the lid is on tight or the blender is overfilled, it will spray hot soup all over you and your kitchen. For protection, cover the top with a dishtowel while pureeing.
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