French Ratatouille Soup

(5 votes)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon garlic, chopped
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 small eggplant, chopped (about a cup)
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped (you can also substitute green or red)
2 pounds fresh or canned tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil, sliced fine
1 teaspoon fresh thyme minced (or 1/4 teaspoon dried)
2 cups vegetable stock
pinch cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt (ideally, sea salt, that great sel de mer from France)
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
balsamic vinegar
shreds of fresh basil

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, sauté the onion and garlic in the oil for about 3 minutes over medium heat, then toss in the eggplant, zucchini, and pepper and sauté, stirring from time to time, another 5 minutes. Cut in the tomatoes with their juice and stir. Stir in the basil, thyme, broth, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

If you are going to serve the soup hot and chunky, ladle it into bowls immediately. Spoon a little balsamic vinegar over each serving and sprinkle with fresh basil. If you'd like to serve it as a puree, ladle the solids into the blender first, then thin with the broth. You can serve it hot immediately--or chill and serve it cold. In all cases, garnish each bowl at serving time with a dribble of balsamic and fresh basil shreds.

The soup is also good as a chunky cold soup--it's nicely substantial for a refreshing summer lunch.

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