December 2014, Istanbul. That was when I first tried Smoky Eggplant Soup. I like eggplant and I have cooked it in different ways, EXCEPT as soup. It sounded ‘so new’ to me and my friend, we just had to try it. We were not disappointed. It tasted so different, but in a pleasant and ‘aren’t-we-proud-of-our-choice?’ way.
From that point on, I had been trying and searching for ways to make that soup here in Stockholm. I cannot seem to get it right. There is always something missing. 🙁 Up until I saw this recipe from New York Times Cooking; the secret is all in that spice they call ‘za’atar’. It is a Middle-Eastern spice mixture that you can find in any Middle-Eastern store. But you can also make and mix it on your own – which is what I did. 🙂
You can still make this soup without ‘za’atar’ and it will still be good. It has a lemony taste that goes so well with the smokiness of the eggplant. I personally just had to use that spice because the memory of that moment in Istanbul was gnawing on me. 😉
I also tried roasting the eggplants in the oven, but I was not so pleased with the result. It just was not smoky enough. My best results happened when I roasted the eggplants directly on the stove top until the skin was black and completely charred. Yep, you might have to clean up the stove top afterwards, but it’s certainly worth it. 🙂
- 2 medium eggplants
- 2 and 1/2 tbsp olive oil (reserve 1 tbsp for garnish)
- 1/2 cup white onion sliced
- salt and pepper to season
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- pinch of cayenne powder
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 1 to 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/2 tbsp za'atar
- 1/2 tsp lemon zest
- 1 tsp parsley chopped
Make 3 or 4 holes in the eggplants by using a knife. Cook eggplants on the stove top, directly on top of the flame. Cook until the skin is completed blackened and charred. For medium European eggplants, this normally takes 3 to 4 minutes. Set aside. Once they’re cool enough to handle, carefully peel off the charred skin and chop the flesh roughly.
Heat up 1 ½ tbsp. olive oil in a pot in medium heat. Start sautéing the onion, season with salt and pepper and keep cooking until the onion has softened.
Add garlic, pinch of cayenne, and chopped eggplant. Cook for about 1 minute, then add chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let it simmer for around 10 minutes.
Puree soup in a blender (using a hand blender in the pot could also work). Strain soup.
Add 1 tbsp lemon juice to strained soup and taste and season again. The soup should be slightly lemony.
Mix lemon zest with remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil.
To serve, ladle soup in a bowl, top with ½ tsp of ‘za’atar’ and chopped parsley. Drizzle with lemon oil.
- Adapted from New York Times Cooking (by David Tanis)