Most of us think of eggplant as a staple Italian vegetable, and it surely is that. After all, what homestyle Italian kitchen would be complete without Eggplant Parm, that satisfying combination of tender, crusted baked eggplant loaded with cheese and tomatoes?

Truth is, I rarely get around to making that iconic dish. I find it much simpler on most days to forgo all the frying, layering and assembling a classic Eggplant Parmesan requires and just roast some cubed eggplant along with other vegetables to serve over bulgur or couscous. When I’m craving something slightly more globally flavored, I’ll quickly blend it up to make a thick, creamy-textured soup.

Fresh eggplant is so nicely dense and spongy. It has a wonderful ability to quietly absorb whatever you surround it with – in this case some smokiness from a grill fire along with butter, coconut milk and the sweet Indian spice blend garam masala.

Eggplant Soup with Garam Masala
By Karen
Makes 4 – 6 servings

Ingredients:

1 medium eggplant
3 tablespoons butter
1 red onion, thinly sliced
Salt
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
3 cups water
1 14-ounce can chickpeas, drained
3 cups spinach leaves

Directions:

Prepare a charcoal fire for direct grilling or light a gas grill to high.

Puncture the eggplant with a fork 4 or 5 times and place on the grill rack. Roast the eggplant, turning once halfway through, until it begins to soften and collapse and the skin is charred, about 25 minutes. Set it aside until cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the onion and ½ teaspoon of salt and cook until softened. Stir in the garam masala and cook until fragrant, less than 1 minute; pour in the coconut milk and 3 cups water. Bring to a simmer and cook 10 minutes; remove from the heat to cool a bit.

Cut the eggplant in half and scoop the flesh into a blender or food processor. Add enough of the coconut broth to just cover the eggplant (about 2 cups) – be sure the broth is not boiling hot to avoid the blender or food processor from overflowing. Puree until smooth.

Return the mixture to the pan with the remaining broth and stir in the chickpeas and spinach. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if needed.

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