The day after Christmas is a day that usually goes by in a blur. Everyone is a little bit tired from the whirlwind of activities from the preceding days (In the case of my family, we usually don't even finish opening presents until late Christmas evening, due to the fact that my mom always creates a "Christmas game" to coincide with present opening, such as Christmas Pictionary, Hangman, or Jeopardy. Before we can open a present, we must play a "round" of the game. Each year the rules become increasingly complicated, but seeing as I usually win, I see no reason to stop this great tradition.) Family members are off doing various activities, from hooking up their latest electronic gadget to hitting the gym because a child mistook them for Santa Claus from behind. A brave few even hit the mall, armed with gift cards and that "unique" sweater from Aunt Gertrude. Chances are slim that anyone is in the mood for a hearty meal or for a long afternoon of cooking.
The perfect recipe to prepare for a day like today is my simple and healthy Roasted Red Pepper and Eggplant Soup. Made with only a small amount of butter and olive oil, this recipe is chock-full of caramelized vegetables and has very little fat, but it is still surprisingly filling. What a fantastic way to get a head start on that New Year's resolution! Another great thing about this recipe is, because the vegetables are roasted and then pureed, they are "disguised," so any pepper or eggplant haters in the family will not have a clue as to the ingredients. Make something up and trust me, they will like it. When vegetables are roasted, their flavors intensify and they become sweeter. In the case of the eggplant, it develops almost a smoky flavor. If you want to dress the recipe up a little bit, top each serving with some crostini (toasted slices of baguette) spread with a little goat cheese. A few tips and comments for successful soup:
- This soup freezes well for up to one month. I always like to freeze it in smaller containers so that I can just that it as needed. I do not suggest thawing and then refreezing the soup as it tends to develop a grainy texture.
- You can refrigerate the soup for up to one week.
- After you remove the roasted eggplant, pepper, and shallots from the oven, cover the baking pan with foil. This will steam the vegetables and not only help them to retain their moisture, but make it easier to remove the insides of the eggplant.
- Marjoram is one of my favorite herbs to add to soups because of its sweet, delicate flavor. If you don't have any on hand, then double the oregano and add a 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme instead.
- This soup is also delicious chilled!
Roasted Red Pepper and Eggplant Soup
Makes 2 1/2 quarts
1 red bell pepper
6 shallots, cut in half
2 eggplants, cut in half lengthwise
8 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons butter
1 red onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
8 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400F degrees. Toss the red pepper and shallots with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large baking pan. Move this mixture to one side of the pan. Drizzle the cut sides of the eggplant with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and place, cut side down, in the baking pan. Add 1/4 cup of water to the pan. Bake 30-35 minutes, until the eggplant is soft to the touch and the bell pepper is lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook 10 minutes longer, turning the pepper, shallots, and garlic several times during the cooking process.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the celery and carrot and cook and stir about 5 minutes more. Add the broth, marjoram, oregano, salt, and pepper and reduce the heat to a simmer.
Remove the eggplant, bell pepper, shallots, and garlic from the oven. Add the shallots and garlic to the soup. Scoop out the insides of the eggplant and add to the soup. Core and seed the pepper and add it to the soup. Let the soup simmer 30-40 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Puree the soup with an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and serve.