At some point in the past few weeks… before I traveled to the Western Carolina Mountains and climbed to the top of a 4,616 ft. peak, before I had a writing crisis and almost left graduate school to join an ashram, and before I hosted a conference for 150 people… I made a pot of soup. That may very well be the very last time I cooked a real meal.
And it was delicious.
It started with another aimless trip to the store, post-Halloween. I realized I haven’t eaten eggplant in a while. I ate too much candy and wanted something light. There were some beautiful, colorful peppers. And I wanted a soup that would be warming. I wanted spice. What is it about fall that makes us hunker down and crave spice? The funny thing is that A Pinch of Yum gravitated toward the same kind of soup post-Halloween last year. Could it be the color?
When I lived and cooked in the vegetarian cooperative house, I hated any recipe that involved roasted vegetables. It seemed like an extra step that took up so much time. But when you can multi-task and allow them to cool while you do other things, they don’t take much time at all. I was so lazy that I cut the eggplants lengthwise and just stuck the peppers into the oven whole. The insides just oozed out when they were done, and the skins just peeled off. My work was done.
Toast and grind your own spices. Always and often. I love the way mustard seeds go pop.
The seeds and skins. The waste is almost as beautiful as the soup. I wish I had a functioning compost.
- 1 large or two small eggplants, cut in half lengthwise
- 3 red, orange or yellow bell peppers
- 4-6 whole cloves garlic, unpeeled
- 1/3 cup oil
- 32 ounces vegetable broth
- 28-ounce can crushed or diced tomatoes and their liquid, fire roasted if possible
- 1 tablespoon whole cumin
- 1 teaspoon whole coriander
- 1 teaspoon whole fenugreek
- 1/2 teaspoon whole brown mustard seed
- 1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes
- pinch of salt
- 1 cup half and half or heavy cream
- feta cheese for garnish
- chopped cilantro or basil for garnish
- Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees F. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Brush garlic, eggplant halves and whole peppers with oil.
- Roast for 30 minutes, or until halves are puckered and charred.
- As the vegetables roast, toast whole spices except for red pepper flakes in a dry pan over low heat. Toast until golden and mustard seeds pop. Allow to come to room temperature before you grind them. Set aside.
- Remove roasted vegetables from oven. Set aside to cool.
- In a large sauce pan or stock pot, heat vegetable broth and tomatoes until they come to a boil, reduce heat.
- When they have cooled to touch, slice peppers in half and clean out seeds and insides. Peel off outer skins. Using a spoon, scoop eggplant out of peel. Cut garlic in half and squeeze it directly into the broth.
- Add vegetables, ground spices, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper to broth and tomatoes.
- Bring to boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes.
- Remove from heat.
- Working in batches, ladle soup into blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Alternately, use an immersion blender to blend soup.
- Stir in half-and-half or cream.
- Garnish with feta cheese and chopped cilantro or basil.
Note: When I served this soup at a lunch with my next-door neighbor, I made hickory-smoked cheddar grilled cheese on the side.