A Snow Day, And Soup, Both With Some Detours

I woke up this morning and checked my email and called work before hitting the shower, but despite the fact that it was still hailing there was nothing announcing a change in status quo. So I hit the shower and got myself fully woken up, which is in fact one of the best ways to ensure that you will then have that joyous little note, and sure enough it announced the delayed opening. So I stuck around here, blogged a bit myself and checked around, which was how I discovered Alanna's Soup, Glorious Soup! event post and figured maybe I could get to it next week. I then spent twenty minutes breaking up a quarter-inch-thick sheet of ice off the car, managed to get to the train station without careening into anything, got on the train and then the subway, trudged up to the office, and greeted the women next door, who told me they were sorry I was in. I said I was too. They said no, really; there's been another email and they closed the center for the whole day. Go home. Which I believe now counts as the Murphy's Law corollary to the shower-delayed opening correlation; that going into work when it's ridiculous is possibly the best way to get the full snow day. I tried not to be too peeved because ultimately they made the right decision, in my humble opinion.
But I figured if I had the rest of the day, it was not going to go wasted. I swung by the grocery store and picked up soup-making materials. There was a slight problem: the recipe called for fresh ricotta, and the only place I've found that is at Trader Joe's, about twenty minutes away and completely out of the question with the roads. So - and here is where we take a slight detour in the soup-making story for just a moment - I decided I'd just make some.
I'd bookmarked the recipe a while back on Epicurious because fresh ricotta is just really, really good (and it never occurred to me that one could make things like that at home) and luckily remembered it vaguely enough to pick up some milk at the store. I didn't remember anything else it called for, but that turned out to be ok. There are some negative reactions on the site, but my experience - with different ingredients and materials - is that it's incredibly easy, yummy, and cheaper than the carton. Definitely would do again.
I felt slightly silly about that, making fresh ricotta but cheating by using canned beans for the soup instead of going full-on, all-out and soaking and boiling, but I won't tell if you won't. The eggplants roasted while I finished a movie and napped on the couch. After that, it's just twenty to thirty minutes to soup.
This soup is really more stew-like than it is soup, and to that end tastes better after even just an hour's sitting.
It's a good soup freshly made; it's nearly extraordinary if you let it rest. I went back for a second bowl later and reheated it; the chili flavor is more pronounced and really helps to mix the smokiness of the eggplant with the smooth undertons. I liked it much better on that second bowl and am hoping that after a day or so it's even more improved. My only real disinclination with it is the color. I'd been hoping for something resembling a white chili, but it's more murky, flecked with eggplant seeds and bits of seasoning, especially after pureeing. If you're ok with a homely, humble soup, this will be perfect to cheer your winter nights.

adapted from The Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver

3 large eggplants
1 Tbsp olive oil, plus several teaspoons for garnishing
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
2 small dried red chilies, crushed
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried basil
1 15-oz can cannellini beans, drained
2 c chicken broth
2 Tbsp sherry
1/2 x 2" piece Parmesan rind (not waxy. optional)
1 recipe fresh ricotta cheese
salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 475 F. Prick the eggplants with a knife, lay them on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake them whole for about 40-45 minutes.
Heat the olive oil in a deep pan and cook the garlic, onion, chilies, parsley and basil unti the garlic is softened but not colored (about 3 minutes or so). Cut the baked eggplant in half and scrape all the insides, breaking them up as you go, into the pan. Add the beans and broth. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes.
Remove about half the soup, puree it and return it to the pot. Stir and season well. It should be creamy, gutsy, and reasonably thick. Season the ricotta with salt and pepper, break it up and stir it into the soup.
I served as Oliver recommended, with some olive oil drizzled over the top and warm toasted bread.


Blogger Alanna Kellogg said...

What a great story, Emily, a 'found' day! And your soup sounds just the best ~ can't remember ever using eggplant in soup so the idea is taking hold in my brain like the fresh ricotta in yours. (Isn't it the best? And so simple!) Anyway I'm so glad you made soup and so glad you contributed it to Soup's On ~ thank you! I'm updating now so look for your link in a few minutes.

9:20 AM  
Blogger Alanna Kellogg said...

For color, maybe think tucking in a bit of tumeric (for yellow) or smoked paprika (for orange). I've mixed smoked paprika/pimenton with eggplant before, they're great together.

9:24 AM  
Blogger emily said...

Thank you, Alanna! And that is a wonderful idea with the spices - both for color and flavor - I'll definitely try that!

6:36 PM  

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