This is a soup for a chilly fall evening, when last-of-the-season tomatoes and fennel are still at the market, but when you need something hearty to warm your bones. The fennel oil and croutons are optional, as is the cream, but why not gild the lily a bit? Think of it as fortifying yourself for the long winter ahead. —lastnightsdinner
Roasted Tomato and Fennel Soup
smallish late-season tomatoes, halved and cored
thinly sliced fennel bulb, fronds reserved
extra virgin olive oil
finely chopped shallot
chopped fresh thyme leaves
light chicken or vegetable stock or broth, or water
Toss the tomatoes and sliced fennel separately with a little salt and olive oil to coat. Lay them out on one large or two small baking sheets in a single layer, and roast for 25-30 minutes.
Melt the butter in a pot and add the shallot and thyme. Add a pinch of salt and cook until the shallot is translucent. Add the stock, broth, or water, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer.
Transfer the roasted vegetables into the pot, being sure to scrape up all of their juices and as much of the caramelized brown bits from the baking sheet(s) (tip: add a little of your hot broth to help loosen it up).
Off the heat, puree the soup with a stick blender (or puree in batches to a food processor or regular blender) until smooth.
Slowly stir in the cream and return the pot to the stove over low heat. Cook for an additional 5-10 minutes, tasting and adjusting the seasoning if necessary.
Ladle into bowls and top with a few croutons and a drizzle of fennel oil. Top each portion with a feathery fennel frond, and serve.
Place the fennel fronds in the small bowl of a food processor and pulse, drizzling in the oil while the blade is running. Scrape into a strainer set over a bowl and press down to extract the oil.