For the Love of Eggplant

AriCooks, soups and stews, Vegan, vegetarian

Food preferences are rather personal and sometimes visceral leanings that usually cannot be argued or swayed by outside parties. Feelings and memories associated with certain dishes can be even more of a factor than flavor in many cases —  taste and quality falling into second place behind food’s associations and the nostalgia it inspires.

Something I love about being a curious non-meat eater is that I am forced to explore the vast variety of fruits, vegetables, grains and herbs or resign myself to languishing in a uninspired veggie burger, and pan-asian-food-take-out gastro-life. This would not be as difficult or unpleasant as I am making it sound, especially considering the wide variety of both those options available today. However, being the cooking gal that I am, pushes me to continually try foods that I once deemed icky (even into my late teens) and often be pleasantly surprised by the result of my adventuresomeness.

Like cilantro, marmite, mayonaise, lamb, and certain pungent cheeses, the eggplant is one of those vegetables that tends to be either loved or hated. Often from an early age, and due largely to the way in which it was prepared and served, people’s feelings towards the eggplant rarely fall into the ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ category. Personally, I did not have many warm feelings towards the eggplant until my twenties, when I began discovering preparations that brought out its best qualities. So many recipes called for it in one form or another, I was prompted to give eggplant another shot. Roasting, pureeing, grilling, sauteeing, and broiling eggplants of all shapes and varieties won my heart in no time, and I have since come to realize that the eggplants of my childhood were simply either seasoned in a way I did not like, or cooked poorly. If you have yet to join the leagues of eggplant worshippers, you might consider giving this simple and earthy soup a try. If you are already a fan, don’t waste time — eggplant has rarely been easier or more delicious than it is here.

Bulgarian Eggplant Soup with Yogurt, adapted from The Foods of Israel Today, by Joan Nathan

I changed a couple of things about this recipe (roasting the garlic for example, instead if adding it minced, raw) that I think make it a little more subtle and suitable for vegans as well as vegetarians. Enjoy!

serves 6

3 large eggplants (about 3 lb total)

half a head of garlic

3 – 3 1/2 cups vegetable broth

1 tsp white vinegar

1 Tbs sugar (I omitted this, but you can use it if you feel your eggplant needs some sweetness)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 cup plain yogurt or vegan sour cream (optional, but does add a nice tangy element to the finished product)

Grill the eggplants under the broiler, turning them with tongs until charred on all sides. While they are still hot put them into a bag (plastic or paper), close tightly and let them steam for about 15 minutes to loosen the skin.

Meanwhile turn the oven to 375ºF  and wrap the half head of garlic in aluminum foil. Roast until garlic is soft and mushy.

When the eggplant has steamed, scrape the flesh from the skin and shake the pulp in a colander to remove excess liquid.

Puree the eggplant with the peeled, roasted garlic in a food processor. Add 2 cups of broth, process, then strain the contents into a pot, over a low heat. Adjust the consistency of the soup by adding more broth. Add the vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Heat through.

Spoon a ladleful of soup into serving bowls, followed by dollops of yogurt and more soup, layering one on top of the other.

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