Are You Sick of Pesto Yet?
A strange cat has been hanging out at our house lately. He’s pretty cute, brown and gray tabby with really bright green eyes, but Chester and Carmela are having a hard time adjusting to his presence. We often hear the yelps and hisses of kitty violence in our backyard, opening the door just in time to see our cats ganging up on this wandering neighbor.
A few weeks ago, I had the back door open because it was so nice outside, and I came into my kitchen to find a cat on the floor, one that doesn’t belong to me. He quickly sauntered back out when he saw me, but he isn’t afraid to intrude. His favorite spot in the backyard is near our enormous basil plants, so in honor of his persistent presence around our house, I named him after another constant in our kitchen: Pesto.
I’ve never had basil plants (or strange cats, for that matter) hang around this long. I don’t know if it’s because we planted them late in the season or because of the near-tropical climate, but they show no signs of fading any time soon. And so, I’ve had a never ending supply of pesto in my fridge (as I’m sure you’ve noticed!) and am trying to find new ways to use it. This soup is perfect for a fall use of the usually summertime herb; it’s warm and creamy but not too heavy. I adapted it from the recipe for Basil-Eggplant Soup in Martha Hopkins and Randall Lockridge’s Intercourses; my version differs only slightly from theirs.
Eggplant Basil Bisque
1 medium eggplant
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 large tomatoes, or 1 14 1/12 ounce can whole tomatoes, drained
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/8 t. cayenne pepper
1/2 t. Kosher salt plus more to taste
Cracked black pepper
2 ounces goat cheese
2 tablespoons basil pesto
Peel the eggplant, and cut into small chunks. Boil in salted water until tender, about 10 minutes. (The original recipe calls for grilling the eggplant, which I’m sure would impart lots of flavor. I keep meaning to try it that way.) In a large saucepan, saute the onion and garlic together over medium-low heat until the onion is translucent and very tender but not brown. Dice the tomatoes and add them to the pot; cook for another 5-7 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft. Add the eggplant and chicken broth; season with cayenne, salt, and pepper. Simmer for about 45 minutes. Remove from heat to cool a bit. Mix the pesto and goat cheese in the blender to form a greenish paste. Remove the pesto paste from the blender, leaving a little sticking to the sides. Puree the soup in batches, but be careful! Hot soup will blow the lid right off your blender. Reheat the pureed soup if necessary; serve with a spoonful of the basil paste on top. I didn’t have goat cheese when I made the soup you see in the photo, so I just used pesto. It was still good, but the goat cheese adds a nice creaminess that I like, so if you have it, use it. Serve with crusty bread and a salad.