A Snow Day, And Soup, Both With Some Detours
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.
CREAMY EGGPLANT, CANNELLINI BEAN AND RICOTTA SOUP
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.