Roasted Eggplant and Bean Soup

As we ease from summer into the first days of fall, it’s time to turn our thoughts to soup. But in much of the country, it’s still too hot for hearty stews or creamy bisque. This Mediterranean eggplant and bean soup strikes just the right summer/fall balance. With a light broth and tomato base, this dish celebrates the last of the year’s fresh produce without making you feel bogged down and heavy.

The real secret to this soup is roasting the eggplant first. Eggplant can be bitter, but by salting, draining, patting and roasting the eggplant, it develops a complex flavor, full of carmelized sweetness, a soft and meaty texture and just a hint of that tell-tale bitterness. A hint of heat from the red pepper flakes brings the tomatoes to life and balances the bitterness and acidity. Randall Beans add bulk, texture and protein, while a last-minute handful of spinach adds beautiful green color and a big nutrition bump.

This recipe works just as well with chicken stock if a vegan or vegetarian diet isn’t your top concern. Serve it up alongside wedges of pita bread.

Mediterranean Eggplant and Bean Soup

1 1/2 lbs eggplant
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. minced garlic
3 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
1 28 oz. can chopped tomatoes
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 cups vegetable stock
salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 cups Randall Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup chopped fresh spinach

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel and dice the eggplant into 1/2 inch dice cubes then sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt and allow it to drain in a colander for 30 minutes. Pat dry and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread evenly on the baking sheet and bake until eggplant is quite soft, about 1 hour. Stir frequently to prevent the eggplant from burning.

Warm 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot and add the garlic, cooking for 3 minutes and stirring frequently. Add the parsley, tomatoes, red pepper flakes and vegetable broth and cook for 25 minutes over medium heat. Stir in eggplant, beans, and spinach. Simmer for 5 minutes and adjust seasonings to taste.

Recipe submitted part of the Better Cooks Start with Better Beans Contest at the Iowa State Fair. 

Meatless Monday is so much more appealing when incorporating this tasty dish featuring Randall Beans Great Northern Beans

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