This is a wonderful, hearty winter soup from my favorite cookbook of all time, "The Frog/Commissary Cookbook". That's quite a statement from me as I own kind of a lot of cookbooks...(hush, you kids--no telling on me!). At any rate, I bought this book many, many years ago and I find that it is still my go-to reliable source for everything good.
I get cravings for the flavors of this soup. It is thick, substantial and so delicious--and also works well as a pasta sauce. If you would like to make it without the sausage, that works great too--just increase the eggplant and maybe the fennel too.
what you will need:
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 1/2 cups cubed unpeeled eggplant (1/2" cubes)
A splash or two of water
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped fennel (or celery if you can't find)
2 Tbsp. minced garlic (I use less)
2 tsp. ground or crushed fennel seed
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (I use more)
4 bay leaves
1 tsp. dried basil
1 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1 lb. sweet (or hot if you like) Italian sausage with casing removed
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 28-oz. can tomato puree (I use crushed tomatoes in puree usually)
1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, chopped (save juice!)
Heat the 1/3 cup olive oil in a 4-5 qt. saucepan. Add the eggplant, a splash or two of water to help get it softening, and 1/2 tsp. of the salt. Saute over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for 4-5 minutes or until just tender. Transfer the eggplant to a bowl. In the same pan, heat the remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Add the onions, fennel, garlic, fennel seed, pepper, bay leaves, the remaining 1 tsp. salt, basil and thyme. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for 5-6 minutes.
Add the sausage and saute 5-6 minutes, breaking up the meat into small pieces with a spoon. Add the chicken stock, tomato puree, chopped tomatoes with their juice, and the eggplant. Cover and simmer 10-15 minutes. If the soup seems too thick, add more chicken stock. Remove the bay leaves and serve.
It is always nice to have a kitchen helper around for anything you might spill on the floor. She is very dignified in her Pink Piggy Bib. Bit of a drooling problem. But we don't hold it against her.
Mmmmm...steamy, filling and so very yummy!