FIRE-ROASTED EGGPLANT & PEPPER SOUPFrom ASA RANSOM HOUSE
Preheat oven to 350. Char eggplant over a gas flame for extra depth of flavor. Halve eggplant lengthwise. Brush cut surfaces with garlic spice oil and place cut side down on parchment lined baking sheet. Brush surfaces of the onions and tomatoes with oil and place them, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake vegetables for 45-50 minutes, or until eggplant is soft, and flesh of onions pushed through skins and are soft & caramelized, tomatoes are blackened & collapsed. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, roast peppers over a gas flame until they are well blackened all over. Place in paper bag to steam-loosen the skins. When cool enough to handle, remove most of the blackened skin, leaving a few bits for flavor; remove stems, seeds & veins.
When the baked vegetables are cool enough to handle, scoop the eggplant from skin and place in food processor along with onions & tomatoes without their skins. Add garlic paste, roasted peppers & 2 cups of chicken broth and puree till smooth, adding more broth if necessary. The mixture should have the consistency of slightly thickened cream soup. Adjust seasonings with garlic spice oil, splash of sherry or vinegar, lemon juice, and salt & pepper, until you have the flavor balance you like. Heat soup to serve hot. herbs.
GARLIC SPICE OIL
Crush fennel, coriander & cumin seeds lightly with heavy pot. Place seeds in small heavy bottomed saute pan and place over medium-low heat. Cook until spices give off aroma, 3 to 5 minutes, shaking pan gently. Do not allow the spices to become over toasted.
Add peeled garlic and olive oil. Turn heat very low and cook 20-30 minutes until garlic cloves begin to shrivel and turn slightly brown. Watch carefully, the garlic can burn very quickly. Remove and let steep until oil reaches room temperature. Strain oil and reserve. Pick soft garlic cloves from the strainer and mash or puree to a smooth paste. Reserve paste.*