It's been a long time since I cooked something that really stopped me in my tracks. It's not that we haven't been eating well. We've been eating meals that are good both in the sense that they taste good and they're healthy, but they've all been incredibly simple.
The thing is, it's hard work taking care of a very small determined person. There is considerably more vacuuming and mopping to do now that there is someone who essentially lives on our floor. Between the general messiness and the diapers, I do at least three times more laundry. It is also significantly more important that meals be healthy, consistent, and timely, and so I end up cooking what I know.
That's been nice in a lot of ways. I like having a repertoire, a routine. I remember the meals my mom cooked regularly when I was little, and they still make me feel safe and comfortable. I will never eat pesto, for instance, without memories of home.
But it's also nice to come out of the fog every once in a while. The other day I bought two eggplants at the farmers' market in Orleans, planning to make a regular: Eggplant Parmesan. Then I got home and thought—You know what?—no! I went online and started brainstorming, cruising websites, and got inspired. The inspiration came, of all places, from a Martha Stewart slideshow. (The eggplant salad with chickpeas and feta looks good too, no?)
The recipe was for roasted eggplant and chickpea soup. The ingredient list was incredibly simple: eggplant, onion, garlic, chickpeas, chicken stock, olive oil. Salt. I decided to give it a go, and the resulting soup was delightful. It was rich and silky and warm at a time of year when the nights are starting to get a chill.
ROASTED EGGPLANT AND CHICKPEA SOUP
Eggplants won't be here for long, but I think this recipe would freeze well. It's from Martha Stewart, and it's comfort food, but also unusual. We ate ours with a big green salad and some toasted homemade bread with butter.
2 medium eggplants, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small onion, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
salt and pepper
2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 quart chicken broth (I used homemade with no salt, if yours has sodium in it be careful with the seasoning above)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss the eggplant, onion, and garlic together in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, and roast for about 30 minutes, until the eggplant is soft. Meanwhile, toss the chickpeas with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Spread these over another rimmed baking sheet and bake until they are golden and slightly crisped, about 25 minutes. Set aside.
Transfer the eggplant mixture into a soup pot, add the chicken broth, and bring to a simmer. Use a potato masher or a pastry cutter to mash up the eggplant until the soup is thick and chunky. Stir in the chickpeas and serve hot.