This is a smooth and creamy soup with a mild anise flavor. The fennel that is usually available in this country is the variety known as finocchio, or Florence fennel. It has a large bulbous root with long stalks and feathery leaves. It can be eaten raw (in salads, for example), but has a much sweeter and more delicate flavor when cooked.

SERVES 3 TO 4 AS A MAIN COURSE

3 large fennel bulbs (about 3 pounds with stalks)

5 tablespoons butter

1 medium onion, diced

1 large potato, peeled and diced

3 cups Vegetable Stock

ВЅ teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

ВЅ cup milk

1 cup sour cream

  1. Cut the tops off the fennel and reserve a few sprigs of the feathery part as a garnish for each serving. Cut the root end off the bulb, then cut each bulb into quarters. Slice the quarters into pieces ВЅ inch thick. You should have 8 to 9 cups.
  2. In a large stockpot melt 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the onion and saut for 5 minutes. Add the fennel and potato and saut for 5 more minutes, stirring often.
  3. Add the vegetable stock, salt, and pepper, and bring the soup to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are very tender.
  4. Pure the soup in a blender or food processor, then pour it through a medium-mesh sieve into a medium saucepan.
  5. Stir in 2 tablespoons butter, and after it has blended stir in the milk. Whisk in the sour cream until blended. Taste to adjust the seasoning. Serve piping hot, with the reserved sprigs of fennel for garnish.

NOTE: Leftover fennel sprigs can be placed in a plastic bag and refrigerated for future use as a salad addition.