•3 tablespoons olive oil
•1/2 fennel bulb, chopped, about 2 1/2 cups
•1/2 large onion, chopped, about 1 cup
•4 cloves garlic, smashed
•1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
•1 teaspoon fennel seed
•1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
•1 (28-ounce) can plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
•2 cups homemade vegetable broth or low-sodium canned
•2 cups tomato juice
•6 basil leaves, torn
•1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
•Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
•Muenster Sammies, recipe follows
Heat olive oil in a medium sauce pot over medium-high heat. Add fennel, onion, garlic, salt, fennel seed and crushed pepper, if using, and cook until vegetables soften and brown slightly, about 5 minutes. Drain and reserve juice from the tomatoes, then crush tomatoes gently with your hands. Add the tomatoes, increase heat to high, and cook until they begin to brown slightly, about 5 minutes.
Add the reserved tomato juice, vegetable broth, tomato juice, and basil leaves. Bring to a boil, stir, reduce heat to medium low, cover and cook until vegetables are cooked through and soup reduces and thickens, about 30 minutes.
Remove pot from stove and puree the soup in batches, with an immersion, regular blender, or food processor. Stir in lemon juice and season with pepper to taste. Serve.
Copyright (c) 2008 Television Food Network, G.P., All Rights Reserved
Muenster Sammies with Apple Jelly:
•16 (3 1/2-inch square) slices Westphalian Pumpernickel, or other thin black bread
•1/2 cup apple jelly
•8 slices muenster cheese, about 3 ounces
•8 slices yellow cheddar cheese, about 3 ounces
•Dill pickle rounds
•Spanish olives with pimentos
Special equipment: Cookie cutters (pumpkins, ghosts, black cat, bats and witches), optional
Toast bread in toaster or toaster oven until slightly crisp, about 5 minutes (or less if using a toaster.) Spread one side of each slice of bread with apple jelly. Layer the cheese over the apple jelly, top with remaining slice of bread. Cut out as desired. Garnish as desired.
Yield: 8 sandwiches