Serve this soup with grilled fresh mozzarella or smoked mozzarella cheese sandwiches.
- 1 medium eggplant
- 2 tablespoons EVOO, plus more for brushing the eggplant
- Salt and pepper
- 2 ribs celery with leafy tops, very thinly sliced on an angle
- 1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced on an angle
- 2 medium onions, red or yellow, peeled, root ends attached and sliced into very thin wedges
- 2 large fresh bay leaves
- 1 large, red, mild frying or bell pepper, quartered lengthwise, seeded and very thinly sliced
- 1 chili pepper, such as Italian cherry pepper or Fresno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
- 4 large cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
- 1 sprig fresh oregano, finely chopped or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 can Italian tomatoes (28-32 ounces) or 3-4 large fresh ripe tomatoes, peeled and sliced
- 4 cups chicken stock (32 ounces) plus 1-2 cups water
- A few leaves of torn basil
- A few flat leaf parsley tops, for garnish
Pre-heat the oven to 450°F.
Place a cooling rack over a baking sheet. Thinly slice the eggplant into discs about a quarter-inch thick. Brush the eggplant slices with EVOO on both sides, then season with salt and pepper and roast until browned and tender, 15-18 minutes. Remove and cool, then quarter the discs of roasted eggplant.
Meanwhile, heat about 2 tablespoons EVOO, a couple of turns of the pan, in soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the celery, carrots, onions, bay leaves, pepper, chili pepper, garlic, thyme and oregano and season with salt and pepper; sauté until tender, stirring occasionally, about 10-12 minutes. Add the tomatoes, slicing them up as you drop them into the pot, then add the juice of the tomatoes and stock, plus 1 cup water for thick soup and 2 cups for thinner soup. Simmer the soup at a low boil until the tomatoes break down and the soup develops its flavors, 15-20 minutes. Stir in the roasted eggplant and some torn basil.
Serve in shallow bowls garnished with parsley leaves.