Remember that famous Seinfeld episode with the Soup Nazi? Well, he really did exist and when I was working for Hearst Magazines on West 57th Street back in the late 80’s/early 90’s I would often wait on the long lines in the bitter cold on West 55th Street waiting for his outstanding soups, which were accompanied by bread and butter and a side of fruit. His were not your typical soups. While he did have chicken noodle and other traditional soups, he also served hearty meal dishes-turned soup like Eggplant Parmesan soup. And yes, he was curt, and if you took to long to order when your turn finally came, you did see his brusque demeanor. Regardless, it was well worth the wait.
With the Soup Nazi as my inspiration, I created my own version of this soup that satisfies my craving for eggplant parmesan and my need to watch my diet. To prepare the eggplant, slice the eggplants cross wise about 1/2″ thickness then cut each round into 1/2″ dice. Add diced eggplant, sprinkled with salt to a colander and let sit for about an hour. This will help take out the bitterness of the eggplant and remove some of the water in the process.
When the eggplant is ready, add onion, parsley, basil and garlic into the base of a food processor and process until fine. Heat oil in heavy pot, add onion herb mixture and sauté 3 minutes. Then dry the eggplant with paper towels to remove the excess water and add the eggplant to pot and sauté 3 more minutes.
Canned San Marzano tomatoes blend with low sodium chicken broth to make the base of this soup. You can easily substitute vegetable broth for vegetarian dish. I use chicken broth because I like the flavor more. When adding the tomatoes, cut them cross-wise in thirds using a knife to help break them down into smaller pieces when cooking. After you add the broth and tomatoes to the pot, add the parmesan cheese rind, bay leaves, crushed red paper flakes, and remaining salt. Simmer the soup, covered, for 30 minutes.
Really fresh mozzarella cheese is key for making this dish come together. You can buy fresh mozzarella in any grocery store; the best ones come with some liquid in the packaging. Dice the parmesan cheese into ¼” pieces and when the soup is ready, drop the pieces of mozzarella separately into the simmering broth to keep it all from clumping together. Some of the pieces of cheese will clump together so use a spoon to mix it through and separate the cheese as best as you can. Let it simmer for 3 minutes and discard the bay leaves and cheese rind before serving. Garnish with chopped basil.
Eggplant Parmesan Soup
3 lbs eggplant, about 2-3 eggplants
3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup parsley
1-2 cup basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus salt for salting the eggplant (about ½ tablespoon)
2 bay leaves
4 tablespoons EVOO
2 cans San Marzano tomatoes
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
Parmesan rind – about 3″x2″
12 oz good quality mozzarella cheese cut into 1/4 ” dice
Cut eggplants cross wise about 1/2″ thickness then cut each round into 1/2″ dice. Put diced eggplant into a colander, sprinkling with kosher salt using about 1/2-3/4 tablespoon of salt, and let sit for about an hour. Wipe moisture off eggplant using paper towels.
In a processor, add onion, parsley, basil and garlic and process until fine. Heat oil in heavy pot, add onion herb mixture and sauté 3 minutes, add eggplant and sauté 3 more minutes. Add tomatoes, stock, crushed red paper flakes, salt, and rind, and bring to simmer, cover and simmer 30 minutes.
Dice mozzarella into 1/4” pieces and drop into simmering pot. Cook 3 minutes separating the melted cheese. Discard bay leaves and rind and serve. Garnish with chopped basil.
Makes 8-10 servings