Did you ever read Bel Canto by Ann Patchett? There is this line in the book where two characters who are falling in love are in the kitchen and peeling an eggplant, and she writes something like, “then everything lovely about the eggplant fell to the ground.”
She is just one of my favorites. How gorgeous is that imagery? And how has that line stayed with me for so many years?
I kept thinking about that as I made this soup, which was my attempt to conjure up one I ate at Au Bon Pain in Boston recently. I had it on a cold rainy day, and it was just ridiculously good. I love it when good food hangs out in your memory, and then slowly but surely it turns into a craving.
When my craving was full blown, I grabbed some eggplant at the store. The soup was filled with chunks of eggplant so that it was almost like eating a meaty, hearty soup but it leaves you feeling amazing from all those vegetables. And the little parm crisps give you just a hint of decadence along side all these virtuous garden gems.
I like that this soup uses what is the most plentiful from your garden too, so I wanted to post it before summer. Of course, gazpacho reigns supreme on hot days, but if the summer offers any cool, rainy days, this soup is for you. You start by placing the eggplant, onion and garlic on a sheet pan to roast.
While that is cooking, you put the holy trinity of soup making in to a pot with a bay leaf (this is pretty much how I start any soup):
Then you add those gorgeous San Marzano tomatoes. It is one of life’s great mysteries how the tomatoes from here taste like pure sunshine, but they do.
Letting all of these simmer for 20 minutes yields a tomato soup that is just heaven, and you could easily stop here an not be disappointed. But I was chasing after those chunks of eggplant, so after I removed the bay leaf I put in an immersion and pureed this.
Then I added my roasted eggplant.
It is done at this point, but I was craving a little bit more, so I made these really easy Parm Crisps to go on the side.
The result? Heaven in a bowl.
When I finished making this, the kids had just gotten off the bus. My daughters smelled the kitchen and asked, what is that yummy smell? Can I have some?
And that is my favorite part, right there. Every thing lovely about the eggplant went into their bellies.
Happy Cooking, xoxo
Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Soup with Parmesan Crisps (printer version here):
2 eggplant, peeled and cubed
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ cup olive oil + 2 T
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
4 celery stalked, finely diced
3 medium onions, finely diced
2 bay leaves
3 cans San Marzano tomatoes, whole with juices (preserved tomatoes from a garden work well too)
½ cup fresh chopped parsley (or 2 T. dried)
½ cup fresh chopped basil (or 2 T. dried)
1 t. of sugar
Kosher salt + Black pepper (start with 3 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper then add more to taste)
Preheat oven to 400. Place cubed eggplant, onions and garlic on a roasting tray. Drizzle with 2 T. olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and toss with hands to combine. Place in oven for 15-20 minutes, until slightly browned, turning halfway through.
Heat oil in large pot on medium heat, and add onions and a sprinkle of salt, cooking for 3 minutes. Add carrots, celery, and bay leaves. Sauté for 10 minutes, then add the tomatoes, crushing them with your hands, and the herbs, salt and pepper. Let simmer for 20 minutes. Then take off heat, remove bay leaf, and using an immersion blender, blend to desired consistency. Then add tray of roasted eggplant, onions and garlic. Stir to combine and serve.
For the Parm Crisps:
Preheat oven to 400. Grate ½ cup of Parmesan cheese, and make 6-8 piles of cheese in circles on silicone mat or tin foil lined baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes or until melted. Let cool, and serve along side soup.