Sometimes, you allow circumstances to get the best of you. In those times, you may or may not resort to one of the easiest vices around. Food. You see, food is a seducer. Food says to you, “You need me. You can’t say no to me. You yield to me. We become one.”
When you listen to the desires of your mouth and of your belly, you pay for it in thighs and booty.
But there comes a point when you’re living at the perimeter of you wardrobe when you have to pick up the pieces of your fallen habits.
You may be reminded of a Lyndon Johnson quote, “That bitch of a war killed the lady I really loved — the Great Society.”
That might be stretching it, but here, the war is eating out, and the lady is cooking.”
You have to take to the kitchen.
You remember falling in love.
You were a vegetarian then. You pull out a vegan cookbook, and you return to your warm bed: soup.
Spicy Peanut and Eggplant Soup
1 pound eggplant, peeled, chopped in 1/2 inch cubes
1 teaspoon salt, plus additional to season soup
5 large shallots, peeled and sliced very thinly
1/4 cup peanut oil
1 medium-size yellow onion, diced
1 hot chile, seeded and minced
1-inch cube fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 (16-ounce) can roasted diced tomatoes with juice
5 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup creamy natural peanut butter
1/2 green beans, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Garnish: green and purple basil
Toss the eggplant cubes with the teaspoon of salt in a large bowl or colander. Allow to sit 30 minutes to soften, then gently rinse the eggplant with cold running water and drain.
While the eggplant is being brined, preheat a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Saute the shallots in 2 tablespoons of the oil for about 20 minutes until very soft, browned, and slightly caramelized. Scoop the shallots out of the pot and set aside in a medium-size bowl.
Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to the pot and add the eggplant, stirring to coat with the oil. Stir and cook the eggplant for 12 to 15 minutes, until slightly tender. Transfer the eggplant to the same bowl as the shallots.
Add the remaining oil to the pot and allow it to heat, add the ginger and chile, and fry for 30 seconds. Add the ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, an fry for another 30 seconds, then add the onion. Stir and fry until the onion is just slightly soft and translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the tomato paste an stir-fry the mixture for another minute.
Add the diced tomatoes, water, eggplant, string beans, and shallots to pot. Stir well and raise the heat to medium-high. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes, then lower the heat and simmer.
In a separate bowl, stir the peanut butter to incorporate any separated oils. Add a ladleful of hot soup. Stir the peanut butter with the soup until creamy; the peanut butter should be complete emulsified. Scrape the peanut butter mixture into the rest of the simmering soup, stirring to mix.
Simmer the soup over medium-low heat, covered, for 35-45 minutes, or until the eggplant is very tender. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Salt to taste after the soup as cooled for at least half an hour.
Top with basil, if desired.
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