How to make eggplant soup
The versatile vegetable is used in many Israeli recipes.
Israelis love eggplant. For years, we've been eating it fried, pickled, grilled, flame-roasted, creamed, combined with all kinds of vegetables and flavorings and eggs. Eggplants grow easily here, and there was always lots of it. Cooks here have found or invented many recipes featuring the meaty, versatile eggplant.
I’ve eaten eggplant every which way, but had never tasted eggplant soup. A recipe in the local newspaper intrigued me, and I cooked it for my birthday dinner. It’s aromatic with basil, oregano and garlic – creamy yet a little chunky with pine nuts from pesto. Folks loved it. Since then, I’ve discovered a number of eggplant soup recipes, all involving garlic, plenty of herbs, and cream or cheese. It’s a fine vegetarian dish.
Here’s my adaptation of the one I found in the newspaper. The original calls for vegetable soup powder, but I don’t keep that around. The first time I made the soup, I simmered up a quick vegetable stock, using the vegetables on hand: 2 carrots, an orange bell pepper, 2 celery stalks, 1 sliced onion, a zucchini, a tomato, a bay leaf, 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme and a couple of cloves of garlic.
The second time, I happened to have a basket of mushrooms that needed cooking, so I substituted their taste for that of the stock and used water. Both versions are delicious, but the mushroom one is faster.
- 2 medium-sized eggplants
- 2 medium onions, sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 8 8 cups vegetable stock or 1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms and 8 cups water
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, or 1/2 tablespoon dried (oregano may be substituted for the thyme)
- 6 tablespoons prepared pesto
- Olive oil
- Light cream, sour cream or yogurt
- Salt and pepper to taste
Stand each eggplant on its side and cut it in half.
Cut a cross-hatch pattern into the flesh, deeply.
Drizzle a little olive oil over the cut eggplant halves.
Grill for 20 minutes or until the eggplant is brown, soft and separating into cubes.
With a spoon, scrape the flesh off the skin. Chop the flesh coarsely and put it aside.
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot, over medium heat. Sauté the onions and garlic in it for 8 minutes. If using fresh mushrooms, add them now. If you wish, keep 1/4 cup of mushroom slivers to add to the soup about 5 minutes before serving.
When the onions are golden and the mushrooms are starting to release juice, add the stock (or water) and eggplant. Bring everything up to a boil.
Reduce the heat, cover and simmer the soup for 10 minutes.
Add basil, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook another 2 minutes.
With a slotted spoon or mesh spatula, lift the solids out of the pot. Keep the hot soup aside.
Blend the solids in a food processor or blender until smooth.
Return the purée to the hot liquid and reheat to a simmer. Now the soup is ready.
Put 1 tablespoon of sour cream or yogurt into each bowl, or drizzle a little whipping cream in.
Top with 1/2 tablespoon of pesto each.
Serve the soup with cornbread or queijadinhas or bruschetta and follow it with a salad.