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Small round and white. Long, slender and mottled green. Oblong round and purple-black; these are a few of the many varieties of eggplants at the farmer’s market. Eggplants are a tropical plant related to potatoes and tomatoes. It’s no surprise that they grow well in our NC summers.
Unsure what to do with this spongy, meaty vegetable? Head out on a world tour of cultural cuisine. Eggplant is a world traveler with roots in Arabic, Asian, Indian and African cuisine. Don’t stop at the gazpacho recipe below, buy some extra eggplants for experimenting. Look for skins free of wrinkles or blemishes with a firm but springy texture.
Traditional Spanish gazpacho gets its creamy texture from stale bread. Here, I’ve amped up the vegetable content by using roasted eggplant to yield a creamy texture. Serve the soup cold or at room temperature as a first course or a lunch paired with grilled steak.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour
• 1 purple eggplant, about 1 lb
• 3 small tomatoes, about 1 lb
• 1 medium zucchini
• 1 large onion
• 2 large cloves garlic
• 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, divided
• 4 tbs olive oil
• 1 red pepper
• 1 small jalapeno (optional)
• 1 cup water
• 1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
• ½ tspfish sauce
• Juice from 1 lemon
• 2 tbs chopped fresh oregano
• 2 tbs chopped fresh parsley
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Slice eggplant, two of the tomatoes, onions and zucchini into ½-inch rounds. Lay pieces out on two baking sheets. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with 1 tsp kosher salt. Rub vegetables with oil and salt to be sure all surfaces are covered. Place garlic on a sheet of foil with a drizzle of olive oil. Wrap the foil around the garlic. Roast the veggies and garlic in the oven for 40 min or until browned.
Remove from oven. Put ¼ cup water in each sheet pan. Using a spatula, scrape up the browned bits from the pan. If anything got a bit too brown, leave those alone.
Pour roasted veggies, garlic and liquid into a blender. Add the remaining tomatoes, chopped, ½ tsp salt and remaining ingredients to the blender (reserve oregano and parsley).
Blend for one minute until soup is relatively smooth but some texture remains. Stir in the oregano and parsley. If the soup is too thick for your taste, add more water.
Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, chopped cucumber and red pepper and a sprinkle of herbs, if desired.
** A note about the hot pepper, add as much or as little to your spice liking.
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