Thursday, October 31, 2013

Roasted Eggplant and Lentil Soup

In addition to a zucchini of epic portions, my garden had several eggplants still waiting for a culinary destiny when I did my final clean-up. And as with my zucchini, I chose soup to put the fruits of my hard labor to good use. I've had lentils on the brain since making Pan-Seared Salmon with Braised Lentils and Swiss Chard, and I was more than happy to find I wasn't the only one who thought their earthiness would make a winning combination with eggplant. (Chickpeas also pair splendidly).

My biggest objection to the original recipe was that it failed to use the delicious and nutritious skin of the eggplant. The skin blends down to tiny, beautiful purple flecks, adding a nice visual element to the mostly monochromatic soup. Milk or half-and-half add richness and creaminess to the soup, but vegans could substitute a nondairy milk (soy, almond, cashew, coconut, etc.) or additional water or broth. The tangy touch of yogurt or sour cream is lovely finishing touch, but vegans could leave that out as well, perhaps adding an extra splash of lemon juice to bump up the sour accent.

It may feature a summer vegetable, but this chunky, filling soup is perfect for a cozy fall dinner. Delicious right out of pot, leftover the next day for lunch, or even plucked from the freezer, this soup is a quick and easy way to fill your belly when the early sunset has your evening energy fading fast.

Roasted Eggplant and Lentil Soup
adapted from Food and Wine
serves 4

One 1 1/4-pound eggplant, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup lentils
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock or low-sodium broth or water
1 cup milk or half-and-half
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Plain yogurt or sour cream, for serving (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Toss eggplant pieces with  olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake until the eggplant is very tender, turning occasionally, about 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, cover the lentils with 2 inches of water. Simmer over low heat until the lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the lentils in a colander.

3. Add eggplant to blender. Add 1 cup of the stock and puree until smooth; transfer to a clean saucepan. Add the lentils and the remaining 1 cup of stock to the blender and puree until smooth. Add the lentil puree to the eggplant puree in the saucepan.

4. Stir the milk and lemon juice into the soup and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper; keep the soup hot over low heat, stirring occasionally. Divide into four bowls and stir in yogurt or sour cream, if desired.

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