Fennel blooms in mid-summer with airy umbels of tiny yellow flowers that have a sweet anise flavor. Soon after, the umbels are covered with soft, intensely flavored green seeds. A spice called fennel pollen is made from the sieved dried fennel flowers. Use whichever form you can come by; flowers, green seeds, or dried pollen. All will impart a similar wild, grassy fennel flavor to this soup, which is delicious served chilled if the weather suggests it.
- 2 cups sliced leek, white part only (about 1 large)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 cups diced fennel bulb (about 2 medium, trimmed)
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 2 teaspoons fresh green fennel, fresh fennel flowers or dried fennel pollen, plus additional for garnish
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Kosher salt
1. Cook the leek in the butter in a saucepan over medium heat until the leek wilts. Add the fennel bulb and chicken broth. Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Stir in the fennel flowers, seeds, or pollen.
2. Puree the soup in two batches in a blender until very smooth. Be very careful when doing this - fill the blender no more than half full so that the hot soup does not splash out, and pulse it in quick spurts before switching it on continuously. Pour it back into the saucepan and reheat it until it simmers. Taste the soup, season with pepper, and add salt if you think it needs it. If you used canned or boxed broth, it might need very little. Serve hot or chilled, garnished with a small pinch of fennel flowers, chopped fresh seed, or dried pollen.