Soup Sounds Good!

Eggplant Parmesan Soup

I really wanted to name this article "It's Soup Weather", but if you are in California right now, that falls a little flat. The days are in the high 70's and the sun is shining. But, fortunately no matter if the rain or snow is falling or it's a cold winter day, soup is always a good choice.

I love taking a delicious main course and redoing it into a soup. These days you can find all kinds of delicious soups and be a little more adventurous than plain old chicken soup or split pea.  I enjoy the classics but love to change it up a bit. This soup came out of one of those sleepless nights when I was creating soup ideas to try to fall asleep. Thank goodness I remembered it when I woke up!

I like soup that starts with roasting. Lining the sheet pan with foil makes for easy clean-up. You can roast almost any vegetable and puree into an easy soup. This one really tastes like Eggplant Parmesan, but is a little lighter in calories and has a nice intense flavor.

Eggplant used to be considered poisonous. The English and French were suspicious of yet another member of the nightshade family. It seemed those sensual  looking vegetables eggplant and tomato created a little controversy before a modern wave of immigrants, Italian, Asian, Middle Easter and Indians showed everyone else how versatile they are. Make sure you select an eggplant that is firm, with tight, glossy skin.

Vegetables are not always the first things we consider when pairing wine. A Crisp Sauvignon Blanc with an herby, citrusy style measures up to the sweet acidity of tomato and the delightful meatiness of eggplant. I would normally turn to a Chianti or Sangiovise when thinking of eggplant Parmesan, fried in olive oil and smothered in marinara with a blanket of mozzarella cheese. I created this soup as an alternative to a heavy dish like Eggplant Parmesan.

Roasting the vegetables intensifies the flavors of the tomato & eggplant. By smoothing it out with the vegetable stock it becomes lighter and more bright. The flavors in the Sauvignon Blanc make each spoonful of soup lively and balanced. The clean, crisp nuances of the SB create a fun experience while chomping away on those addictive salty cheese bits of eggplant croutons.

After a couple months of indulging in holiday fare, this winter soup makes it feel like its summer no matter where you live.

Eggplant Parmesan Soup

Serves 6 (eggplant crouton recipe below)

1 large eggplant, cut in half
2 tablespoons olive oil, you'll need extra for eggplant croutons
1 medium onion cut into quarters
4 cloves garlic, whole, peeled
2 16 oz. cans fire roasted, diced tomatoes (I love Muir Glen!)
1 quart veggie stock
salt & pepper to taste
Fresh basil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 400F. Line baking sheet with foil. Place eggplant face down on foil lined baking sheet. Distribute garlic and cut onion around eggplant. Drizzle with olive oil and slat & pepper.

Roast for 40 minutes in preheated oven. Watch garlic and onions, remove if becoming brown (25-30 minutes). Place in bowl of food processor. Remove and cool eggplant with soft and collapses.

Scoop flesh into bowl of food processor with roasted onion and garlic. Add 2 cans fire roasted tomatoes. Pulse until smooth with a few rough chunks.

Put in 4 quart saucepan with veggie stock. Heat over medium heat for 20 minutes. Add fresh basil, cut in chiffonade, balsamic vinegar and taste for salt & pepper. Serve in shallow soup bowls garnished with eggplant croutons and drizzled with good extra virgin olive oil.

Eggplant Croutons

for soup and snacking (shh! don't tell anyone!)

1 large eggplant, peeled and cubed
1/4 cup olive oil for frying
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Panko
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten

Place eggplant in medium bowl, toss with salt & pepper.

Set up breading station (flour in first bowl, beaten eggs in second, Panko mixed with Parmesan in third bowl).

Heat olive oil in nonstick pan over medium high heat to 350F. Dredge 1/4 at a time the eggplant cubes in each bowl, flour, egg and Panko Parm mixture. Fry in preheated non-stick pan, turn with tongs about 3-4 minutes until brown. Drain on wire rack over sheet pan until remaining three batches are done. Use to garnish (4-5 croutons) in each bowl of soup.

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