Things are getting back to normal here, at least in my house, after last week’s storm. Though I’ve been slow in returning your emails, I want you to know that each one was read, sometimes several times, and appreciated. I feel very lucky not only to have survived the storm with so little damage but also to have the supportive thoughts of people like you.
I’ve had weather on my mind lately but not, apparently, when I was deciding what to cook this week. I seem to have been stuck in “soup mode” since this fall, and when I decided to cook this roasted eggplant soup, I did it not realizing that the temperature here was expected to be in the high 80′s; otherwise, I would never have chosen to cook something that required me to turn on the oven as well as the stove. Fortunately, this is a soup that tastes great hot or cold; I can’t decide which way I like it best, but I do know that it made a refreshing cold lunch on a day when I had all the windows and doors thrown open to drive out the midday heat.
Before I get to the recipe, let me take a minute to discuss curry powder. You may have noticed that when one of my recipes calls for curry powder, I usually specify “good quality” or “best quality” curry powder, and you may be asking yourself, “What exactly differentiates regular curry powder from ‘best’ curry powder?” The simple answer is You. Your own taste is what separates a good from a not-so-good curry powder, and if you’ve found one you like, by all means use it. But, if you’re using McCormick’s or Kroger’s or whatever store-brand’s curry powder because it’s all your grocery store had and you’ve never tried another curry powder, it might be time for you to do some experimenting. For one thing, supermarket spices are often old and past their prime before you even buy them. If you have a chance to shop at a store that specializes in spices, do it–the turnover is quicker, and the spices are much less likely to have gotten old and lost their flavor. As I’ve mentioned before, my personal favorite mild curry powder is Penzey’s Maharajah, mainly because it contains saffron and I love saffron; since I discovered Maharajah, I actually use curry powder more often, instead of mixing my own individual spices, because I like the taste that much. But you don’t have to use it just because I do. Another good one that I’ve tried is The Spice House’s Sweet Curry Powder (though they have a maharajah-style curry powder, I’ve never tried it, so I can’t say how it compares to Penzey’s). If you live close to either of these spice stores, I envy you; if you don’t, please consider ordering by mail, as I do. (And no, I don’t receive any monetary compensation from either of these companies, though I’d be glad to be hired as their spokesperson; they could pay me in Maharajah!)
Armed with a really good curry powder, you can make a soup that will make even eggplant-haters forget that they’re eating the dreaded purple fruit. The idea for this soup came from a book called Dairy Hollow House Soup & Bread Cookbook by Crescent Dragonwagon. Though most of the recipes aren’t vegetarian, they’re inventive and interesting, and many can be veganized with a little creative substitution. This one began as Curried Cream of Eggplant Soup-Stew, but in my veganized version I’ve substituted white beans for the dairy with, I think, wonderful results.
Curried Eggplant Soup
- 1 large eggplant (or 2 smaller ones)
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced
- 1/2 cup diced tomatoes (drained canned tomatoes or fresh)
- 1 1/2 -2 tablespoons best-quality curry powder
- 1 pinch cayenne (or more, to taste)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons agave nectar (or other sweetener)
- 1 15-ounce can great northern beans, rinsed and drained
- 4 cups vegetable broth, divided
- 1/2 cup soy milk or other non-dairy milk
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 6 tablespoons soy yogurt (optional)
- Parsley or cilantro, chopped (optional)
- Preheat oven to 400F. Peel the eggplant and slice it 1/4-inch thick. Place the slices on a sprayed baking sheet and cover with foil. Roast until eggplant is very tender, about 30 minutes.
- Remove the eggplant from the oven and allow to cool. Put half of the slices into the food processor. Chop the other half coarsely and put them in a large pot. Add 3 cups of the vegetable broth and bring to a low simmer.
- Spray a non-stick skillet with canola oil and get it hot. Add the onions and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the diced apple and cook for another 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato, curry powder, cayenne, soy sauce, and agave nectar and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the reserved 1 cup of broth and cook another minute. Pour this mixture into the food processor with the eggplant.
- Add the beans to the food processor and puree until it forms a thick paste. Scrape the paste into the pot with the broth and eggplant, stir well, and add the non-dairy milk. Season to taste with salt and pepper (and more curry powder if necessary). Turn down to very low and barely simmer for 15 minutes.
- Serve hot or chilled, stirring in one tablespoon of soy yogurt into each bowl (if desired) and sprinkling with parsley or cilantro.
Cooking time (duration): 50 minutes
Number of servings (yield): 6
Makes 6 servings. Per serving, without yogurt: 143 Calories (kcal); 1g Total Fat; (7% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 28g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 183mg Sodium; 7g Fiber. Weight Watchers: 2 Flex Points; Core (omit agave nectar).
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