I really love a simple tomato soup. Even more … the use of mesquite-smoked tomatoes gives you a good reason to fire up a small grill during the cooler seasons. However, for me a soup with just tomatoes is never enough. I always need to add another vegetable, and eggplant is my favorite choice for this. My other tomato soup recipe incorporates spring onions.
Roasted eggplant adds a savory, hearty edge and contributes to almost a creamy texture when pulsed in a blender. There are only few ingredients to this recipe, but there are a lot of steps, so make this on a brisk day when you have lots of time and patience. If you’re not in the mood to fire up the grill, you can also roast the tomatoes in the oven with olive oil and liquid smoke.
The addition of roasted eggplant help cut down on the acidity of tomatoes, adds an earthy flavor, and contributes to a more creamy-like texture without having to add actual cream. Because tomato soup is infamous for pairing well with a grilled cheese sandwich, I suggest topping each serving with Swiss Gruyere cheese. This is a clever way to enjoy that tomato/cheese flavor combination without having to consume any carbs – if carbs are an issue for your diet. Otherwise, make a grilled cheese “sammich” and indulge!
• 4–6 cups vegetable stock
• 2 medium sized eggplants
• 12 vine tomatoes
• 5 cloves garlic
• 1 sweet vidalia onion
• 2 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
• 3 sprigs of thyme
• gruyere cheese (optional)
• olive oil
• kosher salt to taste
• liquid smoke (if not using a grill)
Instructions for tomato soup
1. Clean and prepare a small charcoal grill. Arrange lit coals into one layer and cover it with the lid ajar so the grill reach a suitable temperature. Soak a handful of wood chips (I like to use mesquite) in a bowl of water.
2. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
3. Meanwhile, peel the eggplants and trim off the ends. In a large pot simmer the eggplant peels and ends in the vegetable stock.
4. Cut eggplant into small cubes. In a medium bowl, coat them with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper. Spread the eggplant out on a foil-lined baking tray. Roast the eggplant in the oven until slightly browned – about 30 minutes – then set aside.
5a. In a large bowl, coat the tomatoes and garlic with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt. Arrange tomatoes and garlic in a grill basket in one layer.
5b. If using your oven, add the liquid smoke to the olive oil. Arrange the tomatoes in a flat foil-lined pan.
6a. In your grill, spread the soaked woodchips over the hot charcoal and let the smoke emerge. Grill the tomatoes and garlic with the cover on and vent open, flipping each once their exteriors are blistered. Remove the garlic cloves once they’re browned on both sides. Remove the tomatoes once the skins are falling off and they are no longer firm to touch.
6b. If doing this in the oven, skip the wood chips of course. Roast the liquid smoke coated tomatoes and garlic about 30 minutes, or until they brown slightly and the skin begin to fall off. Flip them once while roasting. Sometimes I use the broiler.
7. Core the tomatoes with a small paring knife and remove the skins by hand, they should come off rather easily. Blend the tomatoes, garlic and eggplant in a food processor until desired texture is achieved.
8. Finely slice the onion. In a large pot over medium high heat, sauté the onion, tomato paste and thyme in approximately 4 tablespoons of olive oil – stirring frequently – until the onions are translucent and slightly browned. Add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Add the blended tomato and eggplant mixture, and vegetable stock.
9. Cook at a low boil for approximately one hour, stirring frequently. For a smooth consistency, feel free to puree the soup in batches using a blender. Or you can puree only half for a medium consistency. Continue simmering until ready to serve. And if you’re not a vegan, feel free to top each serving with some grated Swiss Gruyere cheese.
YIELD: about 8 servings