• Suzanne Yearley

Warming Soup and an Easy Seafood Stew to Make Now

January 4, 2018

Suzanne Yearley

I know that fennel is an acquired taste and that many people don’t like it, but in Annie Somerville’s brilliant Tomato Fennel Soup the addition of this unpopular root is just the thing to balance the acidity of the tomatoes and add a sweet richness to each heavenly bowl. Her soup has been one of my favorites for years. Here I have simplified things as much as I could without altering the soup’s delicious flavor and added plenty of green spinach leaves. (My kids tease me that all I eat is salad…I guess that I understand why.)

Another way to enjoy this soup is to turn it into a quick seafood cioppino or the delicious Italian-inspired, tomato-based seafood stew.  Why not make the soup, serve the spinach variation for lunch, freeze the remaining soup and pull it out of the freezer for a super-quick and delicious dinner when combined with the fresh seafood. Use any combination of seafood that you like, just add to the pot according to the cooking time. Mussels and clams are super affordable and quick to prepare, but a few words of caution when cooking them. (PLEASE SEE SECRETS TO SUCCESS FOR HOW TOS ABOUT CLAMS AND MUSSELS.) Whichever way you enjoy this warming bowl, don’t forget the delicious, garlicky croutons.

Secrets for Success:

  • It is worth it to have a good bottle of fino (dry) sherry, a fortified wine, for cooking as it adds a depth of flavor that you will not achieve with regular white wine.

  • As always, buy a good-quality bottle that you would drink. You will still find it incredibly affordable.

  • Keep it on hand to use in pan-sauces, stir-fries, mushroom sautés, etc. It complements beef, chicken, fish, tomatoes, mushrooms, etc.

  • Mussels and clams must be alive before cooking.

  • Store them properly on ice in the refrigerator, never in a sealed plastic bag.

  • All should be closed (or should close when lightly-tapped,) before going in the pot.

  • Any that do not open after cooking or close before cooking should be discarded.

  • Some mussels have a little extra vegetation growing on the outside called the beard. Grasp firmly and pull to remove.

  • Use good-quality, San-Marzano tomatoes.

  • Homemade stock is a plus but not absolutely necessary in this already flavorful soup.

  • Do not add the spinach to the soup until ready to eat as it will become slimy quickly.

Tomato Fennel Soup, Two Ways: With Spinach, Parmesan and Garlic Croutons or Seafood Cioppino

Adapted from Field of Greens


1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 teaspoon ground anise seed

1 teaspoon ground fennel seed

1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes, optional

4 cloves garlic, chopped

2 carrots, diced

2 medium-size fennel bulbs, quartered lengthwise, cored, and thinly sliced, about 2 cups

½ cup dry sherry

2 cans (28-ounces) crushed Italian tomatoes (San Marzano)

4 cups vegetable stock or water

Coarse salt and pepper

1 teaspoon sugar

1 box baby spinach

plenty of grated Parmesan


Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat and add the onions, ¾ teaspoon salt, the spices, and the hot pepper flakes, if using. Saute until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes, then add the garlic, carrots and fennel. Turn the heat to medium-low, cover the pan and cook the vegetables until very tender, about 5-8 minutes. Remove the lid, add the sherry, and cook for 1 or 2 minutes, until the pan is nearly dry. Add the crushed tomatoes, the stock, another 1/2 teaspoon salt and the sugar; cover, bring to a simmer and cook over low heat for 30 minutes.

The soup can be refrigerated, frozen or used as the base for Seafood Cioppino at this point.

When ready to serve, heat the soup over medium low heat until simmering lightly. Stir in the spinach and cook until the spinach is slightly wilted, about 2-3 minutes more. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into serving bowls and top with Garlic Croutons and plenty of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Makes about 12 cups.Enough for 6-8 cups of soup and 4 generous servings of Seafood Cioppino or 12-14 servings of soup or 8-10 generous servings of Cioppino)

Garlic Croutons


            2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, as needed

            2 garlic cloves

            1/2 French baguette, thinly sliced


Preheat the oven to 375 F. Combine the olive oil and one clove of the garlic, crushed with a garlic-press. Lay the slices of baguette on a baking sheet and brush them lightly with the garlic oil. Wipe the second garlic clove across the top, and bake for about 8 minutes, until the croutons are crisp and lightly browned.

Keep in an air-tight container for one week.

Makes 16-18 croutons.

Seafood Cioppino


1 tablespoon good olive oil

1/2lb shrimp, cleaned with shells removed and reserved

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes plus additional for seasoning, optional

5 1/2 cups tomato fennel soup thinned with 1/2 cup water

1 dozen littleneck clams, rinsed well in cold water

1 dozen mussels, rinsed well in cold water and de-bearded, if necessary

1lb. white fish filet, such as cod or halibut, skinned and cut into chunks

¼ cup chopped basil


Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the shrimp shells and cook until bright pink, about 3 minutes. Add the pepper flakes, if using, and the soup and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer for 5 minutes. Using tongs, carefully remove the shrimp shells. Add the clams and mussels to the soup. Simmer, covered, until clam and mussel shells begin to open, about 3 minutes. Season fish and shrimp with salt and pepper. Add fish and shrimp to stockpot. Simmer, covered, until fish is opaque and shrimp are pink, 5 to 8 minutes more. Discard any unopened clams and mussels. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and additional pepper flakes, if desired. Ladle into bowls and top with chopped basil. Serve immediately.

Serves 4 generously





make ahead






good for leftovers





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