Eggplant soup! What will they think of next! For eggplant lovers, this is a treat. It’s simple and elegant with a lemony tang. Come next summer, or even now, turn this into a ratatouille soup, adding tomatoes, zucchini, and bell peppers to the soup. You’ll need about 3 1/2 c or roasted or cooked eggplant, from 2 medium-sized eggplants, or 3 – 4 Asian eggplants. Ground sumac or smoked paprika can usually be found in the international section (Middle Eastern) of urban supermarkets.

2 medium eggplants
3 T vegetable oil or butter
2 c sliced leeks and/or onion
1 or 2 green or red bell peppers, cored, seeds and ribs removed
salt and pepper, to taste
5 – 6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 – 1 t crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
6 c broth or stock
3 – 4 T lemon juice
1 t lemon zest mixed with 2 T extra-virgin olive oil (or just use all olive oil)
ground sumac or smoked paprika, for garnish

1. Prepare eggplants. Either broil: Preheat broiler. Pierce eggplants in several places. Put on a baking sheet and broil for about 8 – 10 minutes, turning a few times, until eggplants are charred and have softened. Or roast: Preheat oven to 450ºF. Pierce eggplants. Put on a baking sheet and roast  until eggplants are browned in spots and have collapsed. In both cases remove from oven, allow to cool, then peel and roughly chop eggplant flesh. Set aside. Stovetop: Trim eggplants. Peel, if you like. Cube. See Step 2.

2. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot. Add leeks, bell peppers, and cubed eggplants along with some salt and pepper and sauté, stirring until vegetables are very soft. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook another couple of minutes. If using broiled or roasted eggplant add with garlic and red pepper flakes.

3. Add broth and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and continue simmering for 10 – 15 minutes. Purée soup, in batches, in a blender. For a smooth soup, push the purée through a sieve, discarding solids and seeds. Otherwise, put in a bowl while you finish puréeing. Then return to soup pot. Or, for a chunky soup, don’t purée.

4. Reheat soup gently. Remove from heat. Add 3 T of the lemon juice. Taste for seasonings and lemoniness. Serve, with a drizzle of the lemon-zest-infused olive oil and a sprinkle of sumac or smoked paprika. Serve hot or cold.