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The Foodist: Catalan Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Soup

The Foodist: Catalan Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Soup

This soup, The Foodist: Catalan Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Soup also called Soupe d’Aubergines Catalane is a real treat. Tangy and filling with a rich taste and mouthfeel. The perfect first course for a memorable meal.

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 Plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1 Tbs red wine vinegar
  • 4 Tbs fruity olive oil
  • 2 Medium-sized onions, chopped
  • 4 Cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Medium-sized waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into small pieces
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 2 Quarts water
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Small eggplant, peeled if desired, and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • Fresh thyme leaves

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine the tomatoes and vinegar in a bowl, toss together, and reserve.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a heavy 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the onions, stirring often, until lightly colored, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes. Do not let the garlic brown.
  3. Add the potatoes, red pepper flakes to taste, water, and 1 teaspoon of the salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and continue cooking until the potatoes are completely tender, 1o to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450°F.
  4. Working with 1 or 2 ladlefuls at a time, purée the soup in a food mill or a food processor. Return the purée to the saucepan and taste, adding more salt if needed and black pepper to taste. Simmer over very low heat while eggplant is roasting.
  5. Toss the eggplant with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and ½2 teaspoon salt and with black pepper to taste. Spread out the eggplant on a lightly greased baking sheet and brown in the oven for about 10 minutes. Watch closely and turn over any pieces that are getting too brown.
  6. When eggplant is ready, ladle the soup into heated soup plates. Top with pieces of eggplant and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves. Serve at once.

NOTES:

Catalan tomato soups are usually assertive and spicy, and this soup, with its garlic, vinegar, and red pepper flakes, is no exception. Often chunks of eggplant, sautéed in olive oil, are added at serving. To sauté the ever-absorbent eggplant to a golden turn, one usually needs to add more and more oil.

Roasting the eggplant is not a Catalan tradition, but a good solution to the too-much-oil problem. Even less oil is needed at the beginning. And what of the roasted flavor? It’s concentrated and heightened by the browning produced in the high heat of the oven.

Another bonus:

The chunks of eggplant come out of the oven meltingly tender but still holding their original shape. The eggplant may or may not be peeled. I think the skin on roasted eggplant tastes a little bitter, so I remove it, a personal choice. Another option is to grill slices of eggplant, cut them into chunks, and add those to the soup.

The French aubergine is derived from the Catalan auberginia, which the Catalans, in turn, adopted from the Arabic. Hence, a little etymology relates the histoire of the arrival of eggplant into southern France. This recipe was gathered from the fantastic cookbook The soups of France.

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