We’ve done Eggplant Parmesan Soup, lo those many years ago, when we began this little adventure. I loved that version, but as you must be sick to death of hearing, The Goddess is a Being who enjoys change…and it just so happens she had some really nice fennel, ergo this version was born!Fennel is one of those vegetables what I came to later in my life. I wasn’t that taken with it, until I tasted braised fennel for the first time, baby, I was hooked…line and sinker, too! This is different enough from the earlier version, that I felt I should actually write up a new post, so here it is. There are a couple of things (of course there are!)—I happened to have an orange I had zested half of. So I zested the other half and added that, along with the juice. This orange was a bit on the tart side, so I added the sugar, as well.
I peeled the eggplant this time. I really love to leave the peeling on, but The Latin Lover isn’t a fan. I enjoy that little bit of bitterness. Anyway, whatever you decide, dice it (not too small), salt it and toss it. Now walk away for 30 minutes. When you come back, rinse the cubes and drain them well. There will still be some water left in them, so I take my hands and squeeze any excess water out. I’ve found this works best, as I can never push enough water out through a sieve. And frankly, I think this way is much easier.
I love to use parmesan rinds in this. It’s a perfect place to use them. If you see writing on the pieces, very carefully remove that. That you may pitch out! Many recipe tell you to pitch them out after they soften and bleed all their goodness into the soup. Seriously? You must be joking! No. No. No. I take them out of the soup, let the sit on the cutting board until I can handle them, then I cut them into very small dice and put them back into the soup. I love hitting one those little, slightly chewy bits…mmmmmm!
For the “croutons”, I had a loaf of sour dough I had made, so I cut about 5 slices, and tore them into pieces. I placed those pieces in the food processor bowl and pulsed. I wanted piece than were smaller than a crouton, but not crumbs. I tossed them with olive oil and garlic granules and toasted them in the oven until they were very brown. Watch them though, as they can burn pretty quickly…no scrubbing the bathtub while they toast! After I take them out of the oven, I toss the bits with finely grated parmesan and set it aside to cool. The “croutons”, are just plain fabulous. Next time I might actually double the recipe. They would be really good on top of a salad, too! I did add a dollop of ricotta to my bowl this morning. Yes, I eat soup for breakfast. Doesn’t everyone? Really? You don’t? Well okay, but you’re missing out…anyway, as I said, I plopped a good spoonful of ricotta on my bowl. For me, it was sort of a waste. The soup has so much flavor, it just wasn’t necessary…it didn’t really add anything. But, it’s up to you. Here’s how you prepare the soup, in pictures—
Eggplant Parmesan and Fennel Soup
- 5 cups diced eggplant (peeled or not), about 2 medium
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons good olive oil
- 1 cup diced onion
- 1 cup finely diced fennel bulb
- 4-5 pieces parmesan rinds, about 1.5 X 1.5-inches
- 3-4 teaspoons dry chicken or veggie base
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dry oregano leaves, crushed between your fingers
- 1 teaspoon dried basil, crushed between your fingers
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic granules
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2-4 cups water, you may not need it all or you may need more
- 1 (26-28 ounce) container diced tomatoes, including their juice
- 3-4 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 cups fresh substantial bread, torn into pieces (sour dough works well)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic granules
- 3 tablespoons finely grated parmesan cheese
In a large bowl, toss the eggplant with the salt; let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature. Rinse the eggplant with water and drain well. Squeeze handfuls to remove as much water as possible. Set aside.
Set a large Dutch oven or saucepan, over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil; sweat the onion and fennel (covered) for 4-6 minutes or until they soften pick up some color. Add the parmesan rinds, chicken base, herbs and garlic granules; deglaze with the white wine. Let simmer for about 2 minutes. Give it a good stir, and add the eggplant. Continue to simmer, covered, for 15 minutes; you just want it begin to be tender.
Add 2 cups of the water, the diced tomatoes and tomato paste.chopped parmesan, and simmer slowly, covered, for 30 minutes. Taste. Add kosher salt (or additional chicken base) and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Remove the parmesan rinds. When cool enough to hand, cut into a very fine dice, about the size of a small green pea. If you wish, as this point, you may plop an immersion blender into the pot and purée the mixture. Return the diced parmesan rinds to the soup. Stir in the sugar and adjust the thickness by adding some of the additional water, if needed.
To make the crouton “crumbs”: Place the bread pieces in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the bread is in very small pieces, but not at the point of being crumbs. Line a cookie sheet (I used a 12-inch pizza pan) with foil, and dump the bread onto it. Sprinkle with the garlic granules; toss. Drizzle with the olive oil; toss again. Place in a preheated 400°F and bake until toasted, stirring twice, about 6 minutes. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with the parmesan and toss. Let stand until cool.
To serve: Ladle the hot soup into bowls. Sprinkle several tablespoons of the crumbs over each bowl and top with additional parmesan, if desired. Serve immediately. This soup is best made at least 8 hours ahead, and reheats beautifully.
NOTE: This soup “ages” well. It is absolutely better the next day. I prefer a chunky soup, so I leave it as is. You may wish to swirl a bit of pesto in/over each bowl. This is also excellent with the grated zest and juice of a small orange added; omit the sugar, if you opt for this.
Eggplant Parmesan and Fennel Soup Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2021. All rights reserved.