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5 lb tomatoes (preferably roma or plum), quartered and puréed
1 1/2 lb fennel
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
8 large egg whites, chilled
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh tarragon
1/2 cup ice, lightly crushed if cubes are large
10 oz mixed yellow and red pear tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 1/2 teaspoons Sherry vinegar

Cut fronds from fennel stalks and reserve. Cut whole fennel in half lengthwise, core, separate layers, reserve 3 or 4 tender inner pieces, and coarsely chop the remaining fennel, including stalks.

Cook onions, garlic, and chopped fennel in oil in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until soft (about 10 minutes), then stir in puréed tomato, 1 teaspoon sea salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes. Pour tomato mixture through a fine sieve into a 4-quart saucepan. Press hard on solids and discard them, then return tomato broth to a full boil.

To clarify the soup and turn it into consomme: Whisk together the egg whites, herbs, ice, 1/2 tsp salt and pepper in a bowl until they are frothy, then quickly pour into boiling broth, whisk 2 or 3 times and return the broth to a gentle simmer until it is clear (about 20 minutes). To check the process, carefully enlarge a hole in the egg foam to ladle size and look at it, spoon out any debris that forms in the hole.

Remove soup from heat (do not disturb the foam) and ladle out the consommé through the hole. Filter through a fine sieve lined with damp paper towels into a large glass bowl (discard the foam). Chill uncovered, until cold (about 1-2 hours).

Before serving, adjust salt, slice reserved fennel into thin slivers and toss with fennel fronds, pear tomatoes, and vinegar for garnish. Divide soup into chilled bowls and garnish. Makes 1 quart.