Monday, November 21, 2011
I love leftovers! I really do. In fact, I specifically cook most things to have remaining portions, which I either freeze or eat for dinner on subsequent evenings. Plus, as much as I adore cooking I only have so much time, like all of us. I need some of my regular dishes to stretch a few days.
All that said, I had eaten baingan bharta on several evenings since I was at the theatre and had no time to cook. Delicious, yes, but could I find something creative to do with that one remaining serving? And could I perhaps even extend it into several more meals?
Certainly you must have guessed that I would make soup, much like I did when I syphoned some of my fresh tomato sauce to make a velvety tomato soup. Sure, the dishes start with the same ingredients and spices, but it’s a great way to put a fresh twist on a dinner you enjoyed less the fourth time than you did the first. In other words, it prevents leftover burnout.
And it’s easy as can be.
Roasted Eggplant Soup
Set the stove to medium heat and add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil (or canola, if you prefer) to a pot. When it’s hot, add 1 medium diced onion, season it with a bit of freshly ground pepper and salt if you like (1/2 teaspoon, perhaps), and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes or so. If you like things spicy, feel free to add some minced hot pepper of your choice at this time as well. Don’t forget to use gloves when handling hot peppers. No, I’m not kidding. Sometimes it’s fine but other times you can seriously burn your fingers, along with whatever else you touch.
Next, add 1-2 chopped garlic cloves and stir until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Mix in 2 large diced tomatoes and a handful of chopped cilantro (aka, fresh coriander), then add about 1/2 tsp ground coriander, 1 teaspoon cumin, and 1 teaspoon garam masala or curry powder. Let the flavors come together for 7 minutes or so. It will start to look and smell like an Indian-style tomato sauce. Stir periodically.
In the meanwhile, get out some vegetable stock from your freezer or pantry. Store-bought stock from a can, carton, or bouillon is fine but I recommend using a no-sodium brand in that case; more nutritional information about vegetable stocks can be found here. You’ll also need some vegetable or tomato juice. Again, if you don’t have homemade that’s fine but the same note about sodium pertains, and here’s another post with additional nutrient information about vegetable juices.
To the onion/tomato/spice mixture add your leftover baingan bharta; I had about 2 cups. Stir together and let the flavors develop for another 5 minutes at medium heat. To this mixture add your stock and vegetable juice. This really isn’t exact. How much liquid you use will depend upon the size of the tomatoes and amount of leftover eggplant curry you had on hand. Start with about 2 cups of juice and 2 cups of stock or so and see how it looks. (More liquid=thinner soup, less liquid=thicker soup, as you might guess.) Check out my tomato soup video if you like, as the general approach is the same.
Stir in the liquids, raise the heat to high, bring up to a boil, and then turn down to a simmer. I generally tend to let my soups stew for awhile. In this case, however, much of the flavors had already come together in the original dish, so I only gave it an additional 20 minutes. Give it a taste. Readjusting the seasoning could be necessary depending on your initial baingan bharta flavors, the sodium content and flavor of your stocks and juices, and your own palate. At this point I often add more black pepper, cumin, and garam masala. Add a bit more of whatever you think it needs 1/2 tsp at a time to avoid over seasoning, then stir and taste again. Continue with this process until you say “Mmmmmm…” and find yourself reaching for a bowl.
By the way, this is real life, not the Food Network, where everyone usually exclaims “It’s just perfect! It’s doesn’t need a thing!” Personally, I find that somewhat annoying. Sure, sometimes that happens for me, too, but more often than not I spend some time in this phase readjusting to get things exactly right – and sipping spoonfuls of soup in so doing. Remember, I make these recipes up, and I’m sharing with you what I’ve done, but you’ll want to adjust to your own tastes. This is why cooking is an art, and so much fun.
It also explains why I’m rarely hungry once I sit down to eat.
Anyway, soup’s on! And let me tell you that it was absolutely wonderful. I have made many a curry-based soup (red lentil, butternut squash, and Thai coconut curry all come to mind) but never have I made a roasted eggplant and tomato soup. This was a hearty, chunky soup with hunks of eggplant and diced tomatoes. Yum. Although fabulous on its own, I garnished mine with a dollop of plain yogurt, a traditional Indian accompaniment, and a sprinkle of chopped scallions. Feel free to omit either, but you might especially appreciate the yogurt if your soup was spicy.
So here’s my final note on the eggplant soup. Guess what motivated this recipe? You’ll never guess, so I’ll just tell you: Au Bon Pain. They have a fairly extensive soup bar, and they had roasted eggplant soup on that particular day. It just so happened that I had been munching on baingan bharta all week long and it inspired me to morph my leftovers into my own variant. I make tons of soup, but I have never begun with leftover Indian food.
You just never know when and where inspiration will strike!