(from The San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook Volume II)
This rich, spicy soup comes from chef/owner Chris Rossi of Citron in Oakland.
¼ cup olive oil, plus more for brushing
4 large globe eggplants
4 large leeks (white and light green parts only), well rinsed and finely diced
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (SS: I use only ¼ teaspoon)
2 teaspoons paprika
½ cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Balsamic vinegar, to taste
Extra virgin olive oil for garnish
Fresh basil, cut into chiffonade, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush 2 baking sheets with olive oil.
Halve the tomatoes and place them cut-sides down on one of the baking sheets. Halve the eggplants lengthwise and place them cut-sides down on the other baking sheet. Place the tomatoes on the bottom shelf of the oven and the eggplants on the top shelf. The tomatoes are done when the skins turn darker red and they give off liquid, which will reduce and thicken. Bake the eggplants for about 40 minutes, or until they are very soft.
Let the eggplants cool until you can handle them, then scoop out the pulp, leaving the skin and tops behind.
While the vegetables are baking, start the soup base. Heat the olive oil in a heavy 4-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and sauté, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or until they caramelize slightly. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the garlic, cayenne and paprika; cook and stir for 5 minutes, taking care that the garlic does not brown.
Add the wine and 3 cups of the chicken stock; bring to a simmer. When the tomatoes are done, add them to the pot along with the eggplant pulp. Add the thyme and oregano and return to a simmer; simmer for 10 minutes.
Working in small batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth. Strain, if desired. Return the soup to the pan; season with salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar. Adjust the consistency of the soup with the remaining 1 cup chicken stock as needed.
Serve very hot, garnished with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and the basil chiffonade.
Serves 6 to 8