- Sea salt and pepper
- 1 small, firm eggplant (1 lb.), thinly sliced crosswise
- 1/2 cup EVOO
- 3 pounds heirloom plum or other tomatoes, or 2 cans (28 oz. each) italian plum tomatoes
- Ice water
- 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 fresh chile pepper, such as fresno or italian cherry, finely chopped
- 1 small onion, peeled
- 1 quart chicken stock
- 1 pound stale peasant bread, torn or cubed
- 1 cup basil leaves, torn
- Coarsely grated ricotta salata or smoked ricotta cheese, for serving
Heat a grill pan or heavy griddle over medium-high heat. Salt the eggplant and set on paper towels for 10 to 15 minutes, then pat dry. Brush the eggplant with 1/4 cup EVOO and grill, turning once, for 6 to 8 minutes. Coarsely chop.
If using fresh tomatoes, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Fill a bowl with ice water. Score the ends of the tomatoes with a large X. Boil the tomatoes to a count of 30, then plunge into the ice water. Peel the tomatoes.
In the pot, heat the remaining 1/4 cup EVOO, 4 turns of the pan, over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and chile pepper. Grate the onion into the pot with a box or hand grater so that the onion juice is not wasted. Stir for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and crush with a potato masher; season with salt and pepper. Stir in the stock and bring to a boil. Stir in the bread and basil after 5 minutes. Cook until the bread has broken down and the soup is substantially thickened, 5 more minutes. Serve the soup in bowls and top with the eggplant and cheese.