Beet and Fennel Soup with Buttermilk and Pickled Fennel

Serves 6

With its bright magenta hue, this creamy vegetarian soup is a showstopper. Tangy buttermilk adds zip to the naturally sweet fennel and beets. The quick pickle garnish is a bright, crunchy contrast and can be made while the soup simmers. Once the buttermilk is stirred into the pureed soup, be sure to warm gently to avoid curdling.

SOUP

1 tablespoon fennel seeds

4 tablespoons butter

1 medium onion, chopped

1½ teaspoons salt

1 medium fennel bulb, chopped, ¼ cup reserved for pickle

1 pound beets, peeled and chopped

3 cups water

1 cup buttermilk

1. In a soup pot over medium heat, lightly toast the fennel seeds until fragrant. Remove and grind in a spice mill or mortar and pestle.

2. In the same pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onions, salt, and ground fennel seeds and cook until onion is translucent. Add the chopped fennel, beets, and water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the pot, and simmer 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

3. Puree the vegetables and liquid in a blender and return to the pot. Stir in buttermilk and gently warm over low heat. Season with more salt, if you like.

 

PICKLED FENNEL

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

¼ cup water

1 tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup reserved chopped fennel

1. In a small saucepan over high heat, bring the vinegar, water, sugar and salt to a boil.

2. Remove from heat and pour over the reserved chopped fennel. Allow to sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes. Top each bowl of soup with a few pieces of the pickled fennel before serving. 

By Claudia Catalano. Originally published in The Boston Globe.