This soup version of the classic Provencal dish is good hot or cold, pureed or not, as a first course or a meal.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon garlic, chopped
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 small eggplant, chopped (about a cup)
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped (you can also substitute green or red)
2 pounds fresh or canned tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil, sliced fine
1 teaspoon fresh thyme minced (or 1/4 teaspoon dried)
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
pinch cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Garnish: balsamic vinegar and shreds of fresh basil
In a large saucepan, saute the onion and garlic in the oil for about 3 minutes then toss in the eggplant, zucchini, and pepper and saute, stirring from time to time, another 5 minutes. Mix in the tomatoes with their juice and stir. Stir in the basil, thyme, stock, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes. If you are going to serve the soup hot and chunky, ladle it into bowls immediately. Spoon a little balsamic vinegar over each serving and sprinkle with fresh basil.
If you’d like to serve it as a puree, ladle the solids into the blender first, then thin with the broth. You can serve it hot immediately–or chill and serve it cold. In all cases, garnish each bowl at serving time with a dribble of balsamic vinegar and fresh basil shreds.