Developing new recipe ideas for this blog is a joy, but, as in other aspects of life, sometimes the creative juices just don’t want to flow. A bit of a nudge is needed. And so yesterday I took a stroll through my organic vegetable garden in search of inspiration. Although it’s winter here in Florida, we’re lucky enough to be able to grow tomatoes, eggplants, zucchinis, peppers, garlic, and herbs this time of year; that is, all of the ingredients of the classic Mediterranean dish of ratatouille. And the thought occurred: might not a fresh twist on ratatouille appeal?
This quick and easy recipe “repurposes” as a soup the lovely ingredients and flavors of ratatouille, and its taste pleases me no end. Hearty, warming, and chock full of the vegetables and herbs that make ratatouille such a popular dish, this soup is lovely for lunch or a light weeknight dinner served with parmesan or asiago croutons and a salad.
For the soup:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
5 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
2 red bell peppers, stems and seeds removed, sliced
1 small eggplant (about 1/2 pound), peeled and cubed
1 medium-sized zucchini (about 1/2 pound), peeled and cubed
2 1/2 pounds very ripe fresh tomatoes (or a 28-ounce can of high quality chopped tomatoes)
6 small sprigs fresh thyme (or 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme or herbes de provence)
3 sprigs fresh parsley
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 1/2 or more cups chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water
1/4 – 1/2 cup cream, half & half, or evaporated milk
Salt and pepper to taste
For the optional croutons:
4 thin slices of French bread
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon grated parmesan or asiago cheese
- In a stock pot over medium heat, sauté the onions and garlic in the oil for approximately 2 minutes until golden. Stir in the bell peppers, eggplant, and zucchini. Sauté uncovered, stirring often, for an additional 5 minutes or until the vegetables are just tender and lightly browned, drizzling in a bit more oil if needed to prevent sticking.
- If using fresh tomatoes for this recipe, cut off their stem ends, lightly squeeze them over the sink to remove their seeds, rinse them, and slice them into wedges.
- Stir the fresh or canned tomatoes, their juices, the broth, herbs, sugar, and cayenne into the pot. Reduce the heat to low and simmer covered for approximately 15 minutes or until all ingredients are cooked though. If using sprigs of fresh herbs, remove them at this time.
- In a blender, in batches if necessary, puree the soup mixture until smooth and return it to the pot. Stir in the cream (or half & half or evaporated milk) and, if the soup seems too thick, additional broth or water. Reheat the soup mixture. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed, by adding salt, pepper, and/or more cayenne to suit your preference.
- If making the optional croutons to accompany this soup, place the bread slices on a baking sheet and broil until golden on one side. Flip the slices over, butter them, and sprinkle them with the cheese. Broil until the cheese is bubbly and lightly browned. Makes four 2 1/2-cup servings of soup and four large croutons.