October 10, 2018

Eggplant Parmesan Soup

Eggplant parmesan is such a cozy dish, with all the hot, bubbly sauce and gooey cheese and the tender eggplant that acts as the perfect vessel to eat all that cheese and sauce. I've made it healthier with some quinoa and rolled the flavors into another tasty dish with some prosciutto, and now it's time for soup. This is the sort of recipe you can make on a chilly fall Sunday and eat for dinners for the week or bring in for lunch to be the center of attention at your office. It's warm and velvety and full of veggies, and crunchy garlic bread croutons and plenty of cheese take it over the top.

It starts by roasting the eggplant, which cooks down on cooking time later by getting it nice and soft and roasty ahead of time. You don't even have to cut it up, just prick it with a fork so it doesn't explode in the oven. I give it a rough dice when it comes out of the oven so it's in bite-sized pieces when it goes into the soup. Some of it continues to break down while it simmers but this is your once chance to decide on the texture so make sure it's small enough to eat but big enough to maintain some texture.

The eggplant goes into a big pot with some onions and garlic, a can of crushed tomatoes (a great tomato-y base for the soup), a can of petite diced tomatoes (or fresh, depending on the season), veggie broth, and herbs. There are a few key things that really make this soup great, so don't skip them. The first is deglazing the garlic and onions with white wine so you can scrape up all the tasty browned bits. When it comes to Italian cooking, white wine tends to give an extra punch of flavor that you can't really place but you know makes it so much better. I use petite diced tomatoes as well as crushed tomatoes for the perfect balance of texture since the crushed tomatoes are mostly liquid while the petite diced tomatoes are about the same size as the eggplant and offer additional texture. You could use regular diced tomatoes, but I find that they can be a bit large and awkward to eat. I use vegetable broth to make this vegetarian, but chicken broth would work equally well. Lastly, fresh herbs make everything better, so if you have them then throw them in.

The soup only has to simmer for about an hour, which isn't that long for soup but still leaves plenty of time for the garnishes. My favorite is the garlic bread croutons, which are really just cubed up bread tossed with garlic and olive oil and baked until golden and toasty. You could sprinkle these on a bowl of water from the Chicago River and I'd still eat it. Yes, they are really that good. And of course no eggplant parm is complete without all the gooey cheese. I stir a handful of grated parmesan into the soup at the very end along with a glug of balsamic vinegar since the saltiness and acidity round out all the flavors. I also sprinkle mozzarella on top because everything is better with a cheese pull, one of the many lessons I've learned so far in Chicago.

2-2.5 lbs Eggplant
1 Large Yellow Onion, Diced
5 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Cup White Wine
1 28oz Can Crushed Tomatoes
1 14.5oz Can Petite Diced Tomatoes
4 Cups Vegetable Broth
1/2 tsp Oregano
1/2 tsp Basil
1 Cup Grated Parmesan
1 T Balsamic Vinegar
3 Cups Cubed Bread
1/3 Cup Olive Oil
1 Cup Shredded Mozzarella

Heat oven to 425F and line a baking sheet with foil.

Prick the eggplant with a fork all over. Transfer to the baking sheet and roast for 35-40 minutes or until soft. When cool enough to handle, split the skin, scoop out the pulp, and dice roughly.

Heat some oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 3 minutes or until tender. Add 3 cloves garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. Season with salt and pepper. Deglaze the pot with the wine, stirring to scrape up any browned bits, and simmer for 2 minutes or until reduced slightly. Add the eggplant, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, vegetable broth, oregano, basil, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 30-60 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk the olive oil, remaining 2 cloves garlic, and salt and pepper together. Toss the bread cubes in the oil, spread onto a baking sheet, and toast at 425F for 8-10 minutes or until golden and crunchy.

Stir the parmesan and balsamic vinegar into the soup. Season with salt and pepper as desired, then serve with the croutons and mozzarella.

Serves 6-8

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