Here is a great recipe to use some beautiful, flavorful, heirloom tomatoes that are at their best at this time of year.Summer is very slowly coming to an end, at least in terms of the school vacation (very quiet “yay”). In terms of the amount of fresh produce available at the Farmer’s Market, everything is still at full capacity. Peppers, zucchini, eggplants, mushrooms, tomatoes. Grapes, plums and some early varieties of apples. I remember how surprised I was a long time ago when, while shopping at my local Farmer’s Market, I got to try several varieties of grapes: Champagne, green seedless ones and green with seeds, dark reds and Concord grapes. Definitely more varieties than at my local supermarket! Concord grapes are the kind usually used to make a bottled grape juice. It really blew my mind to see so many varieties of grapes! (How does it even sound “there were so many different kinds of grapes that it blew my mind? I guess I’ve always been focused on food”). When you get a chance to visit your local Farmer’s Market, do it.
Today’s recipe is one of my favorite soup recipes. I make it only during the summer months when tomatoes are bursting with flavor and so many heirloom varieties are available. The riper the better. There are only few steps required: roasting the vegetables, cooking them in a veggie/chicken broth and pureeing everything. Then return your soup to a pot, add cream (if using) and serve.
Eggplant is a beautiful vegetable (technically a fruit) from Southern Asia. It is related to potatoes and tomatoes and it comes in several varieties that determine its shape, color and size. There are different methods of cooking the eggplant. It can be roasted, grilled, deep fried, stewed or pickled, just to name a few. Opinions differ on whether to salt and drain the sliced eggplant (to remove the bitterness) or not. I found this interesting article from the L.A Times where the author, after experimenting a bit, says that salting the sliced eggplant doesn’t really decrease the bitterness but it improves the texture.
In this recipe you need to roast quartered eggplant, halved tomatoes (or quartered if big), onion and several garlic cloves. Make sure to brush some olive oil onto the vegetables. Roast at 425 degrees for about 45 minutes until brown spots appear.Cool the roasted vegetables for 10-15 minutes until easy to handle. Peel the eggplant skin and discard. Place the vegetables into a pot, add vegetable or chicken broth, thyme and cook, covered, for about 40 minutes. Add salt and pepper to adjust the seasonings. In batches, transfer the soup into a blender and puree until smooth. Return to the pot, add about 1/4 cup heavy cream or half-and-half and bring to a gentle boil. Once again, adjust the seasonings, and a touch of sugar might be needed.
- 1 medium eggplant, quartered
- 3-4 medium/large tomatoes, halved or quartered
- 1 medium onion, halved
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled
- olive oil to brush on vegetables
- 2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 tablespoon of dried thyme
- 6 cups vegetable/chicken broth
- 1/4 cup heavy cream or half-and-half (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar (if needed)
Serve with: crumbled goat cheese and roasted pepitas.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place prepared vegetables onto a baking pan covered with aluminum foil. Brush olive oil onto the vegetables. Roast for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool down until easy to handle.
- Remove and discard eggplant’s skin and place all of the roasted vegetables into a pot. Add the broth, thyme, salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low heat for about 40 minutes. Cool down slightly. If using fresh thyme, remove the sprigs.
- Working in batches, carefully transfer the cooked vegetables and broth into a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.
- Return the soup into the pot, add the cream and adjust the seasonings. Bring to a boil and turn off the heat.
- Serve with 1-2 tablespoons of crumbled goat cheese per serving and sprinkle with roasted pepitas.