Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Creamy Eggplant-Lentil Soup

Some things make great leftovers--lasagna, soups and stews, enchiladas. Other things, like risotto or shrimp n' grits, not so much. When you're cooking for one, it helps to go for the things that make great leftovers.

Mike just started a consulting project that requires him to fly to Hartford on Monday mornings, work at the client's offices during the week and get back to Fort Lauderdale on Thursday night. He's done projects that involved a lot of travel in the past, and it's the nature of his job. He doesn't mind the traveling and staying in a hotel, and I don't blame him--I'd rather do that than work in the same office, in the same cubicle, day after day without variation. He has a good gig.

What it means for me on a very practical level is that I don't have someone to cook for as often. Since Mike loves trying new dishes as much as I do, I feel bad making new and exciting things when he's not here. But what are you gonna do? Last week, I needed to cook, and there was a soup recipe in the February issue of Food & Wine that combined two of my very favorite foods--lentils and roasted eggplant. There are a couple lentil recipes on this blog, but that doesn't truly reflect how much I love lentils. They are my go-to ingredient when I want something satisfying and healthy.

This soup is not glamourous, but it is really good. I ate it for dinner three nights in a row, and I have to say that it grew on me. Night one was nice. On night two, I thought, yum, I like this. Night three--so creamy, so light yet filling, subtle yet flavorful--I'd make it again. I've never pureed lentils this way, and it really does create a creamy texture along with a little bit of milk. With a good slice of buttered bread, this is a tasty meal.

The actual recipe as printed in the magazine was lacking--the soup was begging for some aromatic vegetables so I worked in sauteed onion and garlic. The method was a little convoluted, so I tried to streamline it in my version. Finally, F&W tried to gussy it up with a fried sage leaf garnish. There is no way that I would get another pot dirty when I could garnish this soup with a sprig from my thyme plant. A perfect weeknight dinner for one.

By the way, I saved Mike some soup to try when he got home, and the review was good.

Creamy Eggplant-Lentil Soup
Adapted from this recipe in Food & Wine, February 2008
You can used any combination of dried herbs you like--try sage, rosemary, oregano, marjoram or mint. If you want to use fresh herbs instead, add them to the blender with the eggplant instead of sautéing them.

One 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lb. eggplant, quartered lengthwise
Cooking spray
1 tbs. olive oil
1/2 medium onion
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup brown lentils
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided
1 cup lowfat milk
1 tbs. lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the eggplant quarters, skin side down, on a foil-lined baking sheet and lightly coat with cooking spray. Season with salt and pepper and bake until eggplant flesh is lightly browned and very tender, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the lentils in the saucepan with 1/2 tsp. salt, add enough water to cover by about 2 inches and bring to a boil. Simmer until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and add the spices. Cook, stirring often, until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more. Add onion mixture to a blender and set aside.

When eggplant is done, let it cool slightly, then scrape the flesh into the blender with the onion mixture. Add 1 cup of the chicken broth and puree until smooth. Transfer to the saucepan. Now, add the drained lentils to the blender along with the other cup of chicken broth and puree. Add to the saucepan with the eggplant mixture.

Stir the milk and lemon juice into the soup and bring to a simmer. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper as needed. Serve, garnished with fresh herbs if desired.

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Kristen said...

I would love this but I don't know that I could get the rest of the family to eat it. I'll maybe just have to shoo them out of the house for a weekend!

pion said...

Julie, I read your comments on the other blog which I feel were appropriate and relevant. You did the right thing. She was hurt and really hurt down deep. And it will be quite a while before she gets . . .
About the soup, is that white porcelain bowl made by Apilco? And next to it is the square dish the Zen pattern by Apilco? And in the square dish is that a piece of polenta? I'm using china made by Herend; their pattern in green with gold accents but I'm switching to all white china and porcelain.
John Chypre in Peacham, Vermont

Terry B said...

Lentils aren't just good--they're good for you. A single cup of cooked lentils contains 16 grams of fiber and 18 grams of protein. I recently made some lentil soup with low-fat smoked sausage and kale that was quick to make and really satisfying.