Potato, Fennel & Leek Soup with Olive Tapenade

Potato, Fennel, Leek SoupTo tell you the truth, I thought twice about bothering to post this potato and fennel soup.  I made it, took pictures of it, singlehandedly ate almost the whole batch, and then talked myself out of sharing it with you all.  I decided it was too basic, too boring, not worthy of your time.  

But days after it was gone, I found myself wishing for another bowl and I realized I crave simple.  Simple is good.  Simple is worth sharing.

This is a good soup for chilly, rainy spring days.  The fennel and leek flavors are light and cheery, the potatoes provide the thick, creamy texture that’s bound to bring you comfort when your surroundings are gray, and a dollop of black olive paste adds a punch of flavor.

Fennel, Potatoes, Leeks, Lemon

You just need a few ingredients–simple soup yields a simple grocery list–russet potatoes, leeks, and a couple of fennel bulbs, plus a few olives and a lemon to keep things lively.

For a soup like this, I like to make a quick vegetable stock with my veggie scraps to help emphasize the leek and fennel flavors.  I promise it won’t slow the process more than a few minutes.  Just chop an onion, a stalk of celery, a carrot, the darker green parts of the leek, and the fennel stalks and toss them in a stock pot.  Sweat the vegetables down for a minutes, then add water and a few aromatics.  Simmer, strain, and smile, knowing your soup is going to taste that much better.

After that, it’s just a matter of peeling and chopping, followed by sautéing and simmering.  

Once the potatoes and fennel are tender, puree the soup.  I like to leave a few “rustic” chunks of potato here and there.  Texture.  Smash a handful of olives with a splash of oil to make a quick tapenade.  

Ladle the soup into bowls and swipe a spoonful of the black olive paste across the top.  Basic?  Boring?  Let me rephrase–it’s clean, comforting, and nourishing.  Sometimes that’s exactly what we need.

Potato, Fennel & Leek Soup with Olive Tapenade

Potato, Fennel & Leek Soup with Black Olive Tapenade
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Don't throw the fennel and leek trimmings away--use them to make a quick vegetable stock to reinforce the flavors in the soup.
Recipe type: Soup, Lunch, Dinner
Cuisine: Spring, Vegetarian, Vegan
Serves: 4-6
  • For the Soup:
  • 1 Tbsp. Butter (substitute olive oil if you'd like the soup to be vegan)
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 2 large Leeks, white and pale green parts sliced, dark green tops reserved for stock
  • 2 large bulbs Fennel, bulbs sliced, stalks reserved for stock, feathery fronds reserved for garnish
  • 2 large Russet Potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 4-5 c. Vegetable Stock
  • a squeeze of Fresh Lemon Juice
  • For the Olive Tapenade:
  • ½ c. flavorful Black Olives, pitted
  • 2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • For the Vegetable Stock:
  • Trimmings from Leeks and Fennel, roughly chopped
  • 1 Onion, quartered
  • 1 Carrot, roughly chopped
  • 2 stalks Celery, roughly chopped
  • handful of Parsley
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • Black Peppercorns
  1. First make the vegetable stock. Heat 1-2 tsp. olive oil in a stockpot. Add the leek and fennel trimmings, onion, carrot, and celery and let them sweat down for a couple of minutes. Cover with 2 quarts of cold water and add the parsley, garlic, about 10 peppercorns, and a few pinches of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 20-30 minutes, then strain. This will make about twice as much stock as you'll need for the soup. Freeze the rest and save it for your next batch of soup, polenta, or risotto.
  2. When your stock is almost finished, get started on the soup. Heat 1 Tbsp. butter and 1 Tbsp. olive oil together in a Dutch oven or soup pot. Add the leeks and fennel, season with salt, and sauté until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the potatoes and stock to cover (4-5 c.). Season with salt, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook until the fennel is very tender and the potatoes are beginning to fall apart, 30-40 minutes.
  3. Allow the soup to cool briefly, then puree it using an immersion blender or food processor. You can puree the soup until it is perfectly smooth or leave it a little chunky as I did. If it is too thick, thin it out with a bit more stock. Taste. Season with additional salt, if necessary, freshly ground black pepper, and tsp. or 2 of fresh lemon juice. Return to the stove and gently reheat.
  4. Meanwhile, smash the black olives into a paste using mortar and pestle or a mini food processor. Stir in a couple of Tbsp. olive oil to loosen it.
  5. Divide the soup between bowl. Dollop a spoonful of the olive puree in the center and top with a few of the wispy fennel fronds.


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