It is difficult for me to resist anything with the words “smoky,” “charred,” or “burnt” when it’s done purposefully and pureed into a thick liquid. Because Tasting Jerusalem hosted a couscous contest and a few of the entries featured this soup (see Hannah’s winning entry on Blue Kale Road), I thought I would give it a go as well!
The fresh tomatoes interact with the tangy lemons and teasing the flavor out of the sauteed, deep purple eggplant. The charred flavor of the roasted eggplant flesh clings to the texture of the couscous and weaves its way into every conversation and flavor combination in this soup.
Leaving the eggplants to char over the open flame of my burner, required more attention than I had to give. Instead, I broiled them in the oven at about 500F for a little under half an hour. Then I rotated them on the burner for a couple of minutes to make sure the skin bubbled a bit.
Remove all of the charred skin and you’ll taste that the flavor is infused perfectly in the flesh. Don’t leave a little on for good measure. You just want a hint of the roasted flavor of the eggplant. You don’t want to risk actually making your whole soup taste burnt. With the ease of execution and the bounty of flavor to boot, this dish is definitely a keeper.
Adapted from Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
- 2 large eggplants (about 2 pounds total)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 pound tomatoes, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/3 cup Israeli (giant) couscous
- Fresh dill, oregano or cilantro for garnish
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Preheat your oven to 500F. Slice one of the eggplants in half lengthwise and set aside one of the halves. Pierce the whole and remaining half eggplant a few times and place in the oven. Let cook for about 20-25 minutes. When blackened or soft remove from oven and let cool. If the eggplant hasn’t begun to char, the put it directly on a burner with a flame and rotate until evenly charred.
Dice the raw half of eggplant into a small dice. In a large sauce pan or soup pot, drizzle a little olive oil and fry the eggplant over medium heat. Stir a couple of times, so most of the sides brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
Add another drizzle of olive oil and the onions and cook over medium heat the onions are soft. Add the cumin, tomato paste, tomatoes and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the water and lemon juice, bring to a simmer and then lower heat. Let cook for about 15 minutes.
In a small sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat and add the couscous. Stir and toast it until it browns. Watch closely, as it will turn dark and burn quickly. Add enough water to cover by 1 inch, a sprinkle of kosher salt and bring to a boil. Cook until just softened, about 8 minutes (depending upon your brand). Drain and set aside.
Remove the cooked eggplant flesh and add to the tomato base. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until mostly smooth. Reheat gently and add salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, ladle into bowls and garnish with the fried eggplant and herbs. Serve the couscous in a bowl alongside, allowing everyone to scoop out what they’d like.