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CHEF'S SECRETS

Oh Soup of the Evening

November 01, 1990|ROSE DOSTI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

I dare you to identify the mystery ingredient--eggplant--in this exotic soup. Near impossible. Yet eggplant soup is one of the most popular items on the menu at Patrick Healy's Champagne Restaurant in West Los Angeles.

"I love eggplant," said Healy.

He must. Healy uses eggplant in all three menus (contemporary, rustic and spa) offered at Champagne.

But that is not odd for an American chef whose culinary roots were formed in the south of France, where eggplant is the king of Mediterranean vegetables.

"Eggplant fits beautifully into my spa menu because it is naturally low in calories and has no fat," said Healy.

The thick, rather filling soup is served garnished with a merry swirl of red pepper puree for color and flavor fillip. The soup can actually double as a dip for vegetables; a sauce for roast poultry, game, pork or veal, or as a spread for crackers.

Start scooping.

ROASTED EGGPLANT AND RED BELL PEPPER SOUP

3 large Japanese eggplants

Salt, pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

2 sweet red peppers

1 large onion, sliced

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 quart chicken stock

1 bunch fresh basil

Wash eggplants and split lengthwise in halves. Lightly season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with olive oil to taste.

Roast eggplants at 400 degrees 45 minutes or until tender and golden brown. Puree flesh with skin in blender or food processor. Set aside.

Place peppers under broiler until skins are scorched on all sides. Place in plastic bag 10 minutes to soften, then peel and remove seeds. Puree flesh in food processor until smooth. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in skillet. Saute onion and garlic until tender. Cover to sweat over very low heat 5 minutes. Add roasted eggplant puree and chicken stock to onion-garlic mixture. Cook over low heat 15 minutes until flavors blend and mixture is heated through. Puree mixture in blender or food processor until smooth, then strain into clean bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cut basil leaves into tiny cubes, resembling confetti.

To serve, place serving of soup in deep bowl. Spoon red pepper puree in center and swirl into soup. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, if desired. Sprinkle with basil. Makes 6 servings.

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