Fresh Tomato Soup with Seared Eggplant Sandwiches
This dish shows how even old standbys can sometimes be reworked so they become vivid and fresh again. Tomato soup and old-fashioned eggplant Parmesan are too predictable. But an open-faced sandwich of eggplant slices with pesto and mozzarella—that would get me to sit up and pay attention. And what if we serve it in a rich tomato broth jazzed up with some garlic and onions? The soup tastes wonderful and the black stripe of eggplant against the brilliant red soup attracts the eye. Where did this dish come from? Not any one place, but bits and pieces of the puzzle are assembled from all over Italy.
Although the Fresh Tomato Soup recipe calls for only ¼ cup of pesto, it hardly seems worth the effort to make less than a cup. The remainder always disappears into sandwiches, crostini, or pasta within a few days. Toward the end of basil season, I make a double batch without the cheese and freeze it in plastic containers the size of baby food jars, topping each portion with a light covering of olive oil; it will keep for 3 months frozen. Allow it to thaw in the refrigerator, then stir in the cheese.
Total Timeunder 2 hours
OccasionCasual Dinner Party
Recipe Coursemain course
Dietary Considerationmain course
Taste and Texturecheesy, herby, sharp
Type of Dishhot soup, sandwich
- About ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 medium onions, chopped into ¼-inch dice
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 beautiful eggplant (about 10 ounces), sliced ½ inch thick into 8 slices
- 2 cups water
- ½ cup chopped fresh basil, plus 4 leaves for garnish
- ¼ cup Pesto (below)
- Four ¼-inch-thick slices fresh mozzarella (about 2 ounces)
- Four ½-inch-thick slices rustic bread, about the same size as the eggplant slices
- 2 cups lightly packed basil leaves
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced and then mashed with a pinch of salt to a paste
- ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino Romano
- Kosher salt
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook until tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes and sugar, lower the heat, and cook for 25 minutes.
While the tomatoes are cooking, season 8 eggplant slices with salt and pepper. (If you have more than 8 slices, set the remainder aside for another use or discard.) Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the eggplant slices and sear on each side until golden brown and cooked through. Remove from the heat and let cool.
Add the water to the tomatoes and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Puree in a blender and strain through a fine sieve. Return the tomato soup to the pot, add the chopped basil, and simmer for 5 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Spread the eggplant slices with the pesto. Put a slice of mozzarella on 4 of the slices. Top with the remaining 4 eggplant slices, pesto side down, to make “sandwiches.”
Brush the bread with about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and place on a small baking sheet. Toast in the oven until golden brown. Top each slice with an eggplant sandwich and continue heating until the cheese begins to melt.
While the sandwiches are heating, reheat the tomato broth.
Place an eggplant sandwich in the bottom of each warm bowl. Pour the tomato broth around the sandwiches. Drizzle with olive oil, garnish with the basil leaves, and serve immediately.
For the Pesto (Makes about 1 cup)
Put the basil leaves in a food processor. With the motor running, add the oil in a thin steady stream and process until the basil is finely chopped, about 1 minute. Add the garlic and pine nuts and process for another 20 seconds, or until the pine nuts are finely chopped but not a paste.
Transfer the pesto to a bowl. Stir in the cheeses. Taste and season with salt as necessary.
NotesAlthough the Fresh Tomato Soup recipe calls for only ¼ cup of pesto, it hardly seems worth the effort to make less than a cup. The remainder always disappears into sandwiches, crostini, or pasta within a few days. Toward the end of basil season, I make a double batch without the cheese and freeze it in plastic containers the size of baby food jars, topping each portion with a light covering of olive oil; it will keep for 3 months frozen. Allow it to thaw in the refrigerator, then stir in the cheese.
2002 Jody Adams and Ken Rivard