SERVES 4 to 6 (VEG): Pureed raisins add body and flavor to our complexly spiced eggplant and tomato soup
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS Eggplants and tomatoes are often found together throughout the eastern Mediterranean in countless dishes, especially soups. For a wonderfully creamy yet hefty soup, we began by dicing and roasting eggplant and found we could skip the task of salting, rinsing, and drying it. We left the skin on for deeper eggplant flavor and broiled it to develop a flavorful char. To build our soup, we started with the usual aromatics—onion and garlic—and added the flavorful North African spice blend ras el hanout plus some extra cumin, which gave the soup complex flavor. Using broth gave the soup well-rounded flavor, and we added subtle sweetness with raisins, which once pureed also gave our soup body. Canned tomatoes were easy and offered rich tomato flavor. We reserved some eggplant to add to the pureed soup for a pleasantly chunky texture. Lemon juice provided brightness, almonds gave a pleasant crunch, and cilantro added freshness. We prefer to use our homemade Ras el Hanout, but you can substitute store-bought ras el hanout if you wish, though flavor and spiciness can vary greatly by brand.
- 2 pounds eggplant, cut into ½-inch pieces
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
- 1 onion, chopped
- Salt and pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1½ teaspoons ras el hanout
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth, plus extra as needed
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
- ¼ cup raisins
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
- Adjust oven rack 4 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Toss eggplant with 5 tablespoons oil, then spread in aluminum foil–lined rimmed baking sheet. Broil eggplant for 10 minutes. Stir eggplant and continue to broil until mahogany brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Measure out and reserve 2 cups eggplant.
- Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook until softened and lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in garlic, ras el hanout, and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in broth, tomatoes, raisins, bay leaf, and remaining eggplant and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer gently until eggplant is softened, about 20 minutes.
- Discard bay leaf. Working in batches, process soup in blender until smooth, about 2 minutes. Return soup to clean saucepan and stir in reserved eggplant. Heat soup gently over low heat until hot (do not boil) and adjust consistency with extra hot broth as needed. Stir in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, sprinkling individual portions with almonds and cilantro and drizzling with extra oil.
Toasting Nuts and Seeds
Toasting nuts and seeds maximizes their flavor and crunch. To toast less than 1 cup of nuts or seeds, put the nuts or seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat. Shake the skillet occasionally to prevent scorching and toast until they are lightly browned and fragrant, 3 to 8 minutes. Watch them closely since they can go from golden to burnt very quickly. To toast more than 1 cup of nuts or seeds, spread them in a single layer in a rimmed baking sheet and toast in a 350-degree oven. Shake the baking sheet every few minutes, and toast until the nuts or seeds are lightly browned and fragrant, 5 to 10 minutes.