Sometimes, one is faced with a dental emergency.
And in such dire times, there are many foods that simply will not compute: things crunchy, chewy, sticky, crumbly, grainy, seedy, with skins, or anything that requires the generally under-appreciated act of chewing. With teeth.
One’s usual diet is immediately pitched off the rails, replaced by, essentially, anything that can be poured.
So I made soup, because one can only eat so much yogurt.
This was a completely off-the-cuff recipe, centered around the desire for something to do with eggplant and tahini. I picked up some onion, celery, and green pepper, because the trinity is mandatory for soup in my house.
The eggplant got roasted, for a richness that you just can’t get in a pot. Spices happened. Wine got splashed in. It smelled almost as incredible as it tasted. And it only tasted better the next day, as these things often do.
I served it with tofu for extra protein, and because my little corner market started carrying the awesome local tofu that I used to have to make a special trip for. It’s not necessary, but it was nice to have something to chew on.
More or less.
I served this with diced extra-firm tofu at the bottom of the bowl, ladling the hot soup over the top to warm it. The tofu would've been more flavorful if it had simmered with the soup for 10 to 15 minutes, but ain't nobody got time for that after waiting an hour and a half for soup.
For the hot sauce, I used a reasonably hot verde-style sauce (unfortunately, a limited edition flavor), because I cannot seem to get enough green foods in my life these days. I'm sure whatever hot sauce -- red, green, yellow, whatever -- you have on hand would be lovely. Heck, try a blend of two or three.
- 1 large eggplant (1 1/2 pounds)
- Olive oil, as needed
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 4 bay leaves, more or less
- 1 large onion, diced
- 3 stalks celery, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 1 leek, halved, washed well, then sliced thinly
- 5-6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste, or 2 fillets anchovy (optional if you insist)
- 1/4 cup white wine, dry vermouth, or even beer
- 8 cups chicken stock (or water)
- 1/2 cup tahini
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Juice of 1/2 lime (optional, but nice if you've got it)
- Green hot sauce of choice, as needed
- Salt and black pepper, as needed
1. Preheat the oven to 400º F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Roughly chop the eggplant into 2-inch chunks. Spread in an even layer on the prepared pan. Drizzle lightly with 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and sprinkle with cumin, cayenne pepper, a few pinches of salt, and some grinds of black pepper. Don't bother tossing it; it'll be just fine. Tuck the bay leaves around the eggplant.
3. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the edges are browned and the flesh has softened.
4. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the diced onion, and stir to coat. While the onion softens, dice the remaining vegetables and add to the pot in the order listed (celery, green bell pepper, leek, and then garlic). Salt lightly. Stirring occasionally, cook until vegetables have softened (do not let them brown much).
5. Push the vegetables to one side, and add the anchovy (if using) to the bottom of the pan. Let it melt a little, then add the wine/vermouth/beer, and cook until nearly evaporated.
6. Add the stock, and increase the heat to high. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer.
7. When the eggplant is finished roasting, add to the soup. This is easily done by lifting the parchment and sliding the whole business into the pot, including the bay leaves.
8. Cover the pot and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the eggplant skin has thoroughly softened. Remove the bay leaves.
9. Purée the mixture in a blender (and for gosh sake, be careful blending hot liquids), or with an immersion blender (which is much easier).
10. Whisk in the tahini, lemon juice, lime juice (if using), and a few shakes of hot sauce. Be conservative at first with the hot sauce; you can always add more later. Taste, and correct the seasoning as needed with salt, pepper, and hot sauce. The flavor should be a little tangy from the lemon juice, a little nutty from the tahini, and just hot enough to make you notice.
11. Serve hot, with a drizzle of olive oil on top and some grainy bread on the side.