Let's face it, the inside of an eggplant is not exactly attractive and that's the main ingredient. If you take away the artfully scattered drops of lemon olive oil and the sprinkle of za'atar, then you are left with something that looks like sludge.
But it's really tasty sludge. So this isn't a recipe that you are going to make for its looks. And looks aren't everything, right? The soup is makes up for it by being smokey, silky and piquant in every spoonful. Did I also mention that it is ridiculously easy to make? I've made it three times in the last month and the recipe has been filed in my recipe binder--this one is a keeper, even if it isn't very pleasant to look at.
Smoky eggplant soup
adapted from this recipe in the New York Times
2 lbs eggplant(s)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups sliced yellow onions
Salt and pepper
6 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch of cayenne
6 cups mild vegetable broth (I used this Better than Bouillon stuff and it works great here)
4 T lemon juice
1 tablespoon za’atar (Middle Eastern blend of thyme, sesame seeds, salt and sumac)
- Poke a couple of holes in the eggplants with a paring knife, then place on a baking sheet under a hot broiler, about 2 inches from the flame. Cook until the skin has blackened and charred. Turn and cook on other sides until eggplant is soft and the skin is charred all around. This took me probably 10-15 minutes, keeping an eye on the eggplant and rotating it with tongs. Set aside to cool, then remove and discard skins, scraping away any flesh that sticks to the skins (that's where you get the nice smokey flavor) then roughly chop the eggplant flesh.
- Put the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, season generously with salt and pepper, and cook until softened and beginning to color, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, cayenne and eggplant flesh and cook 1 minute more, then add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
Top each serving with about a teaspoon of za'atar.
(If you want the pretty lemon olive oil droplets to detract from the dinge, then mix a teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest with two tablespoons of olive oil and dribble a little over each serving. I thought it made a negligible impact on taste so I wouldn't make the effort, unless you are really worried about the sludge-look. And if you are really worried about the looks because you have some judgmental diners on your hands, then you probably also want to follow the original recipe and put some chopped parsley on top, too.)