Now is when eggplant is coming into season in the Middle East. In any market there’s a table piled high with long purple-black eggplants, round eggplants, ridged eggplants, purple and white-striped eggplants, even all-white ones. And they’re cheap.
Good cooks in the Middle East and Mediterranean have always known how to make the most of this meaty vegetable, but you don’t often see eggplant soup. Once you’ve tasted this soup, with its robust flavor and creamy texture, you’ll make it again and again.
It’s worth simmering up a quick vegetable stock to use as the base liquid, but in a pinch you can use mushrooms for that added dimension.
2 medium eggplants
2 medium onions, sliced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
8 cups – 2 liters vegetable stock or 8 cups water plus 1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
2 tablespoons fresh basil, choppped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, or 1/2 tablespoon dried. Oregano may be substituted.
salt and pepper to taste
6 tablespoons light cream, sour cream, or yogurt
3 tablespoons prepared pesto
1. Stand each eggplant on its side and cut it in half.
2. Cut a cross-hatch pattern into the flesh, deeply.
3. Drizzle a little olive oil over the cut eggplant halves.
4. Grill in the oven for 20 minutes or until the eggplant is brown, soft, and separating into cubes.
5. With a spoon, scrape the flesh off the skin. Chop the flesh coarsely and put it aside.
6. Heat 3 Tblsp. olive oil in a large pot, over medium heat . Saute the onions and garlic in it for 8 minutes. (If using fresh mushrooms, add them now too. If you wish, keep 1/4 cup of mushroom slivers to add to the soup about 5 minutes before serving.)
7. When the onions are golden (and the mushrooms, if using) are starting to release juice, add the stock (or water) and eggplant. Bring everything up to a boil.
8. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer the soup for 10 minutes.
9. Add basil,thyme, salt and pepper. Cook another 2 minutes.
10. With a slotted spoon or mesh spatula, lift the solids out of the pot. Keep the hot soup aside.
11. Blend the solids in a food processor or blender till smooth.
12. Return the puree to the hot liquid and reheat to a simmer. Now the soup is ready.
13. Put 1 Tblsp. sour cream or yogurt into each bowl, or drizzle a little whipping cream in.
Top with 1/2 Tblsp. pesto each.
Serve the soup with cornbread or bruschetta and follow it with a salad.