I am a little obsessed with eggplants. The very idea of cooking with them, and eating them, makes me giddy with excitement. And when I can use eggplant in one of my favorite winter foods — a soup — I literally go weak at the knees.
I am heaving myself onto the fat free wagon this January – at least intermittently – because, like most of the rest of the world, I am determined to make 2016 the “year of my best body.” (Sorry Oprah, but I couldn’t help it– a little shiver goes up and down my spine each time I say that out loud.)
But fat free without flavor is no good, as anyone who’s tried to eat healthy knows. With my Roasted Eggplant Soup you can put that concern to rest because this soup is nothing if not flavorful, thanks to za’atar, that incredibly delicious Middle Eastern spice blend. I did add an optional element — some cashew cream — stirred in at the end to add even more creaminess to this already creamy soup, but if you want to stay pristinely fat-free, avoid it altogether. The soup’s still amazing without it.
For this Roasted Eggplant Soup, I riffed off a recipe by the wonderful David Tanis in the New York Times, but I tweaked it a lot to make it fat-free (the original has five tablespoons of oil and it sounds fabulous, but eeks!) This is such an easy soup to make, you can stir it up while you dust the furniture, talk to your best bud on the phone, and juggle the laundry — all at the same time. The eggplant roasts itself, and the only time you need to invest is to chop up some onions and garlic and blend up the soup at the end. Oh, and I forgot — you have to squeeze a lemon.
The smoky eggplant is so good in this soup, you will find it a satisfying meal on its own. But if you absolutely need some protein, which is not a bad idea, serve it with some grilled tofu on the side, or — if you feel like a little more work — something like this quinoa and sprouted bean pilaf.
- 1 large eggplant, halved, placed skin side down on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil or parchment paper, and then roasted for 30 minutes in a 425 degree oven, or as long as it takes for a fork to pierce all the way through the center without any resistance.
- 2 medium white or yellow onions chopped
- 6 cloves large of garlic
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/4 tsp roasted cumin seeds
- 3-6 cups water or vegetable stock
- 1 tbsp za'atar
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- Juice of 1 lemon
- tbsp Chopped parsley 1 or 2 , for garnish
- Optional ingredient:
- 2 tbsp cashews blended into a smooth cream with 1/4 cup of water.
- In a pot, place the onions and the garlic with 1/4 cup of vegetable stock or water.
- Cover and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Scrape the flesh of the eggplant off the skin and chop into smaller bits. Add to the onions and garlic along with 2 cups of water or stock.
- Add salt and ground black pepper to taste, cumin, and cayenne and stir in.
- Turn off the heat. Transfer the soup to a blender and blend until very smooth. Add more water or stock if needed, and to adjust the thickness of the soup to your liking. Be very careful while handling very hot fluids. Wait for the soup to cook a little, if you'd rather.
- Pour the blended soup back into the pot and stir in the lemon juice, za'atar and parsley. Heat through.
- Pour into bowls and stir in some cashew cream into each bowl if using. Serve hot.
One more delicious za’atar recipe: my Roasted Squash Dip. Try this with a winter squash like acorn or butternut. Yum.