Monday, April 8, 2013

Roasted Red Pepper & Eggplant Soup

Roasted Red Pepper & Eggplant Soup

Serves 8
Roasted Red Pepper & Eggplant Soup 
I had a few more eggplants left in the garden.  It is getting cooler out – even for southern California…so soup comes to mind. I love roasted red peppers and thought the addition of eggplant would give it an additional nutty flavor. This is a simple quick mid-week recipe which can be made 1 day in advance, cover and chill or frozen for later use. There are nothing quite like freshly roasted and peeled red peppers. But, if pressed for time, you could easily substitute jarred roasted red peppers.  It seems that the list of possible garnishes is almost endless – herbs, croutons, cheeses, or other chopped vegetables. Let your imagination and the contents of your refrigerator guide your choice.
  • 2½ lb eggplant, halved
  • 1½ lb red peppers (or 22 ounce jar)
  • 2 leeks, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise, white and pale green parts only; about 2 C
  • 6 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 C chicken or vegetable stock
  • 4 Tb tomato paste
  • ¼ C chopped fresh basil
  • 2 Tb chopped fresh thyme
  • 3 Tb unsalted butter
  • 2 Tb fresh lemon juice
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Garnish: crème fraiche, basil, chopped yellow pepper, chopped scallion, Parmesan crisp, cubed Feta, or other cheeses such as cotija or queso fresca. Drizzle with Olive Oil before serving.

Preheat the oven to 450 degree F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Pierce eggplants all over with fork. Transfer; cut side down, to baking sheet. Roast until tender, about 45 minutes. Cool slightly. Remove peel and discard. Cut eggplant into large pieces, rinse under running water, drain and set aside.
Eggplant with holes poked into them

After roasting
There are a variety of ways to roast the red peppers. If you want to go for full-on smoke, you can light a fire in an outdoor grill and roast your chilies directly over the glowing embers until completely blackened all over. For apartment dwellers, roasting them over an open gas flame works just as well or char in the broiler until blackened on all sides.  The goal here is total carbonization of the exterior. As it heats, the liquid just under the surface converts to steam, forcing the skin outwards and away from the flesh. This small area of air and water vapor just under the skin insulates the flesh underneath, preventing it from burning.

After the pepper is completely blackened, enclose in a paper bag 10-15 minutes. The loosened peel slips right off, leaving the flesh clean and un-charred, but infused with deep smoky flavor from the blackened skin. Avoid using water to remove the peel, as it will dilute the wonderful flavor of the roasted pepper. Seed and coarsely chop the peppers.
Roasted red peppers after the skin is peeled off
Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and leeks and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Stir in eggplant, peppers, stock, and tomato paste. Bring to boil.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered until vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes. Stir in basil and thyme. Cool slightly.
The beginnings of the soup
Working in batches, puree the soup in blender until smooth. Return soup to pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add butter and lemon juice; stir over low heat until soup is heated through, about 5 minutes.

Add selected garnish before serving. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil. To make the Parmesan crisp shown in pictures: spread freshly grated Parmesan cheese onto silpat lined baking sheet. Place in 375 degree F oven for 5-7 minutes – watch carefully – until it is light brown. You can use as a flat crisp. If you want to curl it around a spoon handle, do so while still warm and malleable.
The Parmesan cheese...
....Crisped and rolled on a spoon
Serve the soup with your favorite white wine – we liked it with an Oregon Sauvignon Blanc.
Soup with a dollop of creme fraiche
Bon Appetit!


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