HOME WITH THE LOST ITALIAN: Warm up with roasted eggplant and garlic soup

Toasted garlic and eggplant soup is garnished with croutons and fresh cheese. 
Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Toasted garlic and eggplant soup is garnished with croutons and fresh cheese. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Eggplant is often overlooked in favor of more traditional vegetables, but this dark purple beauty is one of our favorite vegetables, and it’s been a mainstay in our garden for years. We await its arrival each summer, eagerly anticipating its use in classic Italian dishes like eggplant parmigiana, caponata, braciole and grilled eggplant pasta rolls, all of which have been featured recipes in this column.

This week we’re sharing a recipe for Roasted Eggplant and Garlic Soup, which was a fall-time favorite at our restaurant. What I love about this soup is its simplicity – it’s a basic soup made of eggplant, garlic, onion, chicken stock, a finishing touch of cream and salt and pepper.

Roasting the eggplant and garlic is key to this recipe because this process enhances their natural flavors, resulting in a savory, robust and delicious soup.

If you have a bounty of eggplant like we do, you can roast the vegetable, remove the peel and then freeze the flesh for up to one year, wrapped in plastic and stored in an airtight container.

To roast, simply remove the stem of the eggplant, slice in half lengthwise, place cut-side down on a baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes.

Roasted garlic is wonderfully aromatic and will fill your kitchen with a savory, fragrant and gourmet scent.

You can roast garlic by the clove or the bulb, depending on your preference and how much garlic you need. Like the eggplant, roasted garlic can also be frozen for later use – simply put the roasted cloves on a sheet tray or plate, pop them in the freezer until frozen and then store them in an airtight container for several months.

The eggplant boasts a bounty of nutritional value and is a terrific source of fiber, as well as vitamins B1, B6 and K, and even folate and potassium. Eggplants are at their peak flavor when they are medium in size, but since this soup is a puree you can use large and even overripe eggplants with excellent results.

We garnish the soup with fresh parsley, a sprinkling of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino-Romano cheese, and homemade croutons. The parsley adds a touch of color and freshness, the cheese brings a punch of tangy flavor and the croutons provide a crunchy contrast to the silky soup.

Croutons are easy to make and a great way to utilize day-old or stale bread, especially rustic loaves like a French baguette or Italian ciabatta, and I keep a bag of bread cubes in my freezer for this purpose.

To make, simply toss the bread cubes in olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and cook either on the stove or in the oven until lightly golden brown.

With fall quickly approaching, soup season will soon be underway and this roasted eggplant and garlic soup is an excellent way to showcase this shiny, black beauty of the garden.

“Home With the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 12-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com. More recipes can be found at http://thelostitalian.areavoices.com.

Roasted Eggplant and Garlic Soup

Serves 6 to 8

2 medium or large eggplants, stems removed, cut in half lengthwise

4 large garlic cloves, peeled, ends cut off

1/2 cup diced yellow onion

2 tablespoons olive oil (vegetable oil and butter also fine)

32 ounces chicken or vegetable stock

1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

To garnish:

Fresh parsley, finely chopped

Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino-Romano cheese

Croutons

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Lightly coat the cut-side of each eggplant with olive oil, then place each half on the baking sheet, cut-side down.

Lightly toss the garlic cloves in olive oil, wrap in aluminum foil and place on the baking sheet with the eggplant.

Roast the eggplant and garlic at 400 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, until the eggplant skin begins to collapse and the flesh is a deep, golden brown; the garlic should also be soft and golden brown.

Remove from oven and set aside; when eggplant is cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin.

Meanwhile, in a medium pot (3-quart), saute the onions in 2 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the roasted eggplant, garlic, chicken stock, salt and pepper and cook over medium-high heat for 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and use an immersion blender, food processor or liquid blender to puree the soup until smooth and silky. Add the cream and blend for one more minute to combine, then return the pot to the stovetop. Heat over medium heat until hot; taste and add more seasoning as desired.

Serve with fresh parsley, grated cheese and croutons.

Store soup in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to two months.

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