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  • 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.