Thursday, August 2, 2012

Recipe: Eggplant & White Bean Soup with Garlicky Croutons

Can you tell we're on an eggplant kick? Summer is here, and there are gorgeous eggplants everywhere, just asking to be prepared in some delicious way or another. We see them at the farmers' market, at the co-op, and even winking at Meijer.

And, when my body is tired and achy, even if it's in the 80s outside, what I want is soup. Homey, wonderful soup with lots of heart, served with a substantial bread and some white wine.

When I have a little extra time when making a soup or a sauce, I like to cook my onions down in broth or stock to give more depth and richness to the base of the soup. I picked this technique up in college when looking at reviews for artichoke dip on It seriously can make the difference between "good" and "this is a damned fine bowl of soup!" if you know what I mean.

Eggplant & White Bean Soup with Garlicky Croutons
 If you don't want the extra hassle or calories of the croutons, you could serve this soup with bread on the side, or even tear up a piece or two of bread into small chunks and mix into your bowl. If you do make the croutons (you know you want to!), I would prepare them in the ten minutes or so while your onions cook down. This soup can be served as is, with chunks of eggplant, onions, and beans, or it can be partially or completely pureed.

1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, diced
generous splash of white wine (about 1/4 cup)
3-4 cups of broth, separated
1 large eggplant (or 2 small eggplants), chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
28 oz. white beans, drained and rinsed
juice of one lemon (about 4 Tbsp)
chopped parsley
salt and pepper, to taste
Garlicky Croutons (see below)

  1. Heat olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the red onion and generously salt, stirring to coat onions. Cook over medium heat for five minutes or so, until onion begins to soften and brown slightly. Add a generous splash of white wine, and saute to burn off. 
  2. Add about one cup of broth to onions. Turn the heat up, almost to high. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the broth is almost absorbed and has thickened considerably.
  3. Reduce the heat back to medium and add all of the eggplant, tossing to coat in the onions and remaining broth. Add a little extra broth here, if you feel it's necessary. Cook eggplant for about 5-10 minutes, sauteing to avoid sticking. 
  4. When eggplant is softened and beginning to cook down, add the beans and the rest of the broth. Stir to combine, and allow soup to come to a simmer. I would recommend letting your soup simmer on low for 20 minutes or so, to thicken and combine the flavors, but you could skip this step if you're in a hurry.
  5.  Remove soup from heat and stir in lemon juice. If you desire a thicker soup but don't want to puree it, take a potato masher and spend a minute smashing some of the beans.
  6. Salt and pepper to taste. Top with garlicky croutons and chopped parsley, and serve.
Makes 4 generous servings
About 275 Calories (before croutons) per bowl, 12.5 grams protein

Garlicky Croutons
Homemade croutons add such a nice touch to salads and soups. I would suggest a fresh sourdough or multigrain loaf, but really any freshly baked bread, preferably unsliced, will do. You can use as little or as much olive oil as you would like. General rule of thumb, of course, is that the more oil you use (up to a point, of course), the better these will taste. But a tablespoon or two will be quite nice as well.

Olive oil, for frying
2 cups of bread cut into 1-inch cubes
salt and pepper
garlic powder
optional: rosemary, thyme, or italian seasoning blend

  1.  Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat until glistening. Swirl to evenly coat the bottom, then add bread in a single layer (you may have to do 2-3 batches, depending on the size of your pan). 
  2. Brown bread, tossing occasionally to avoid burning. Once all sides of the bread have made contact with olive oil, generously salt and pepper, and sprinkle with garlic powder. Toss bread so the seasonings are disbursed.
  3. Continue to cook, tossing as needed, until cubes are well-browned, and add additional olive oil if you feel it is needed.

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