Sunday, October 11, 2009

Smoky Eggplant Soup with Mint and Pine Nuts for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

Although I frequently vow that I will buy no more cookbooks because I have so many, I frequently break that vow, as I did when I stumbled across the new "Love Soup" by Anna Thomas. In my defense, it was my Birthday, her classic 1973 cookbook "The Vegetarian Epicure" was one of my early cookbooks and is a somewhat tattered copy in my collection now, and finally of course we all know that I LOVE Soup! It was kismet I tell you. The book has 160 vegetarian recipes for all kinds of soups, and then recipes for breads, appetizers, salads and desserts that make the soup into a meal. Many of the recipes are vegan and the book is has charming illustrations like her previous book. I have tabbed a bunch of recipes already to make that sound absolutely delicious and judging from the first soup I made, her Smoky Eggplant Soup with Mint and Pine Nuts, I know I am going to love cooking from this book. 

Anna Thomas says: "The deep smokiness that makes this soup so wonderful comes from charred eggplants (roasted over coals or in a very hot oven) and is underscored by a smoky paprika. The spices and fresh mint join the smoky eggplant and yogurt to create a beautiful, faintly exotic flavor, reminiscent of Persian or Turkish salads. This soup is a revelation when served well chilled, on a hot, languid summer evening. Streak the top of each serving with a thread of olive oil, then drop a spoonful of thick yogurt in the middle, scatter some toasted pine nuts over that and open the cold Tavel rose'. But the soup is also delicious hot--and if you want a fiery soup instead of a cooling one, add a touch of harissa, the spicy Moroccan chile paste as a condiment."

Smoky Eggplant Soup with Mint and Pine Nuts
Love Soup by Anna Thomas
(Serves 6-7)

2 medium globe eggplants (2 1/4 lbs; 1 kg)
2 medium yellow onions (450 g)
3 Tbsp (45 ml) olive oil
sea salt
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or chopped
1/2 tsp smoked paprika, such as pimenton de la Vera
5 cups (1.2 liters) light vegetable broth
1/2 cup (30 g) chopped fresh mint, plus more to taste
freshly ground pepper
1-2 Tbsp (15-30 ml) lemon juice
1 cup (240 ml) drained Greek-style yogurt

fruity green olive oil
1/2 cup (40 g) lightly toasted pine nuts
harissa (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Select young, firm eggplants, as they will provide the dominant flavor in the soup and must be sweet and fresh. Prick the eggplants in several places with a fork and then roast them on a baking sheet for 45 to 60 minutes, or until they are completely soft and their skins is blistered and blackened in places. This imparts the subtle smoky flavor that will set off the spices and lemon. Alternately, char the eggplants on a charcoal grill, turning them often. The time needed to achieve a soft, well-cooked eggplant on the grill will depend entirely on the heat of the coals and the size of the eggplants.

While the eggplants are roasting, quarter and thinly slice the onions. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large nonstick pan and cook the onions slowly with a pinch of sea salt over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the onions are very soft and golden brown, about half an hour. 

When the eggplants are well charred and soft to the point of collapse, remove them from the oven or grill and allow them to cool until you can handle them. Split them open and scrape out all the flesh, including the seeds. Remove and discard any seeds that look very dark, as they might be bitter. Chop the eggplant by hand until there are no large pieces left. 

In a small skillet, dry roast the coriander and cumin seeds, stirring them over medium-low heat for a few minutes, just until they release a toasty fragrance. Grind the spices in a mortar or a spice grinder and set aside. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the same skillet and cook the garlic in it over a very low flame for about 2 minutes. 

In an ample soup pot, combine the eggplant pulp, the caramelized onions, the freshly ground spice mixture, the fried garlic, and the smoked paprika, along with the vegetable broth, and simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes to marry the flavors. Add the fresh mint, some pepper, a little lemon juice , and more salt if it is needed; this will depend largely on the saltiness of the broth you are using. Turn off the heat and stir in the yogurt. A large whisk is best for this, as the soup has a rough, rustic texture. Taste the soup, and add a bit more lemon juice if you think it's needed to bring a brighter citric edge to the flavor.

Chill the soup well and serve it with an extra drizzle of olive oil and a spoonful of plain yogurt as well as a scattering of lightly toasted pine nuts. Or serve it hot, with any of the same finishing touches, but reheat the soup carefully to avoid curdling the yogurt, bring it to just a simmer as you stir it. Serve harissa with the soup if you like. 

Notes/Results: An unusual and very delicious soup! I was originally going to make one of the "Greens" soups in the book, but when I opened my CSA box, instead of the usual kale and chard, I found eggplant so I switched my plan to this recipe and was so glad I did. It is hearty, good and an exotic combination of ingredients. It seems like a long recipe, but goes together easily, caramelizing the onion is the step that takes the longest to do, but it is simple and you do it while the eggplant are roasting. I tried it both hot and cold, and it is equally tasty both ways. When I served it warm, I drizzled it with a bit of pomegranate balsamic syrup, sprinkled it with toasted pine nuts and pomegranate seeds and a bit more fresh mint. Cold, I used the olive oil drizzle, yogurt, pine nuts and again a few pomegranate seeds for their sweetness, color and texture. (Pictures are of the hot version). A definite make-again soup for me. If you love soup and delicious vegetarian recipes, check out "Love Soup"--I think you will love it too. 

Now lets see who is in the Souper Sundays kitchen this week. You can tell we are well into fall as we have many lovely, lovely soups this week. (And BTW, check out the announcement about next week's special edition of Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at the bottom of the post).

My friend and fellow soup fan, girlichef says, "There is just something about a bowl of steamy, hot soup on a chilly day. You know, that something that warms you to the bone; warms you from the inside, out." She created this hearty Orecchiette, Sausage & White Bean Soup to do just that instructing us to "Cup your hands around the bowl to warm them up...breathe in that healing scent...feel the warmth on your tongue knowing it will soon be whooshing down into your waiting belly. Ah. Medicine. Good medicine."

Natasha from 5 Star Foodie says her Butternut Squash Soup recipe was originally inspired by an Apple Rutabaga Soup from Patrick O'Connell's Refined American Cuisine: The Inn at Little Washington, but she has adapted so much, it no longer looks like the original at all. Natasha also adds a special spice to her soup, saying "When my daughter was two, she tried the butternut squash soup for the very first time and loved it. But she was suspicious of the little brown specks in her bowl. I told her it was a special spice and let her smell the allspice itself. Because of the brown color and a sweet aromatic smell, she named allspice a "chocolate spice" and the soup became known as the "chocolate spice soup", her all-time favorite."

Rachel, The Crispy Cook and one of my Cook the Books co-hosts says, "A single Tatsoi plant remained from my Spring planting, at least one that hadn't gone to seed, and was shivering under some fall leaves. So I grabbed it and into the cooking pot it went!" She turned it into this lovely Chinese-Style Noodle Soup with Tatsoi, saying, "I had read that tatsoi is often a soup ingredient in Chinese cooking, but hadn't yet experimented with it. I chopped the crunchy stalks off and diced them up to add to the soup pot a few minutes before adding the leafy parts and that made a nice counterpoint. The leaves got very silky and tender and were perfect in this hot, noodly broth."

Kait from Pots and Plots has a filling Potato Leek Soup to share this week. Kait says, "I saw leeks on sale last week as we had that lovely snap of cool weather and I knew I had to buy some and make soup. I had thought to make cock-a-leekie soup (one of my favorites from when I lived across the pond in Edinburgh), but I’ve had too much going on to deal with the chicken for that one. Potato leek soup is a low cal, low fat, fabulous alternative that comes together in under an hour. In search of a good recipe, of course I turned to Elise at Simply Recipes because she has simply fabulous taste. This soup is a minor variation on her recipe."

Mary from One Perfect Bite has a bright bowl of soupy goodness, this Creamy Broccoli and Cheddar Soup. Mary says, "This is a simple soup and very easy to make. If you're not quite ready for the hearty soups and stews of winter, this is a perfect soup to span the seasons. Over the years, I've replaced the heavy cream in this recipe with half-and half. It could also be made with whole milk, but it becomes thinner with the fat reduction. I hasten to add, that when made with heavy cream the soup becomes ambrosia. here are no tricks to making this. If you are unable to get watercress, skip it and use a bit more broccoli. Everything else is available at your neighborhood grocery store."

Lissaloo from One Step at a Time has been making some fun Halloween treats on her blog and made this easy, Fast, Simple Black Bean Soup to pair with the "Mummy Dogs" her daughter made. (Check out the pictures on her site!). She says, "Another fun Halloween dinner here, did I mention Miss B made me a 2 mile long list of Halloween food she wants us to make??? I need to take a picture of her list, it's 2 pages long and she has teeny tiny handwriting, I would need to make like 4 things a day at least to get through it by Halloween! Any how this was one of her things, the Mummy Dogs, she made them by herself while I made the Black Bean Soup."

My buddy Natashya from Living in the Kitchen with Puppies, made some creamy, comforting Bill Brady's Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup this week. She says, "This is an easy and hearty soup to keep you warm this weekend. Made with good, sharp cheddar and beer - it's easy to see why it is a Canadian favourite. The book it came from is a fundraiser cookbook from 1980, "A treasured collection of over 400 recipes from Canadian Kitchens. A fund-raising project of Epilepsy Canada", and I imagine many Canadian cooks have this stashed away somewhere in their collections. Simple, hearty, and delicious - what more could you ask for?"

Thanks to everyone who brought their fabulous recipes this week. If you have a soup, salad or sandwich that you would like to share, click on the Souper Sundays logo on the side bar to get all the details.

I am happy to say that Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays celebrates its one-year anniversary next week! Can you believe it has been 52 weeks of soups, and of course many weeks of salads and sandwiches since those categories were added. I'll be recapping my "Top 10 Favorite Soups" from all the ones I have posted over the past year. Would love to have you join us with a soup, salad, or sandwich--either something new or revisiting one of your posted favorites.

Have a great week!


  1. I saw Love Soup awhile ago and instantly thought of you! I'm glad you bought it for yourself and I'm willing to bet you'll be cooking from it a lot. Sounds like a fun and new soup recipe :D Great roundup!!

  2. You soup looks incredibly delicious and the round-up is, as always, wonderful. Have a great evening.

  3. This looks fantastic! I vow to not buy any more cookbooks, either, but it never works :)

  4. wow a year! so fast! great round-up looking forward to seeing your top 10!

  5. I absolutely love eggplant, and I have really been getting into using mint in savoury applications lately. Looks very tasty, I love that it works both hot and cold.
    Lovely variety of soups this week, very comforting indeed!

  6. Lovely eggplant soup! And congratulations on one year of Souper Sundays. It is a fun and comforting event.

  7. I love the idea of this Moroccan soup. The smoky flavor of the eggplant looks so hearty and tasty. Sounds like the perfect cookbook for you!

    What a great roundup. It's crazy to believe that Souper is already a year old! I will try to submit something to next week's roundup...wouldn't want to miss out on all the fun!

  8. One year? Dang, time flies. Well, congratulations on a whole year of SSS's - I've seen so many great recipes come out of your kitchen!

  9. It's fate, I tell you! I've actually got two eggplants in my fridge right now, not destined for anything in particular. They'll find a home in this lovely smoked eggplant soup! :) Congrats on Souper Sundays 1 year anniversary!

  10. oh wow amazing soups as always love this feature on your blog you should do a cook book lol

  11. Great roundup! I love your soup - there is just something so good about eggplant and pomegranate seeds!

  12. I've never had--or contemplated--an eggplant soup, but this sounds wonderful. I don't know about the mint, but I love the rest of the ingredients. Lovely.

  13. The smoky eggplant soup sounds very nice, love the flavors! Thanks for including my recipe in such a terrific roundup! Looking forward to the anniversary post!

  14. This is the first time I've seen an eggplant soup but it is the most amazing soup I've ever seen. Love all the flavours and spices in it plus of course the Greek yoghurt. The weather is still very hot in Greece for soups but the forecast is that it will be changing soon so I will start making soups again.

  15. The eggplant soup sounds fantastic! I love your blog.

  16. This Soup look very delicious, looks like this weekend the family will have soup for dinner.

  17. Deb -- Thank you for these wonderful words about my new book, and I am so glad you broke your vow -- yet again! The pictures of the smoky eggplant soup look just beautiful. I really like the addition of the pomegranate seeds. Most of all -- I'm thrilled to read about Souper Sundays -- it sounds like my house. You are my people! Perhaps I can concoct a special soup for you one of these Sundays -- when the uproar of book tour dies down.


    -- Anna Thomas


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