Roasted Eggplant Soup with Red Pepper Garnish

2 pounds eggplant
1 medium red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons light olive oil, or less
salt and pepper, to taste
4 cups vegetable broth
Red Pepper Cream
1 small red bell pepper
1/3 cup whipping cream, or alternative
1 pinch salt, optional

 The garnish: use regular red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, pureed in the food processor and mixed with salted whipped cream.

1) Prepare a medium hot wood charcoal fire; preheat the grill or broiler.

2) Grill 2 pounds of eggplant, turning frequently until the skin is scorched. Cool and remove the blackened tough outer skin. Cut the peeled eggplant into 1-inch cubes.

3) Dice 1 medium red onion and roughly chop 2 to 3 garlic cloves . Stew the eggplant with the onion and garlic in 4 tablespoons light olive oil over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes until the vegetables are very soft. Season with salt and pepper and just cover with stock. Cook for 10 minutes, covered, over low heat.

4) PEPPER: While the vegetables are stewing, grill a small red pepper over the fire, then put it in a plastic bag to steam; after 5 minutes, remove it and peel off the blackened skin. Discard the seeds and stem. Dice the pepper and pound it to a paste in a mortar. Reserve the paste for the garnish.

5) puree the soup in a blender. Return it to a soup pot and heat until very hot but not simmering.

6) PEPPER CREAM: Prepare the garnish by lightly whipping 1/3 cup heavy cream with the red pepper puree. The cream should be in very soft peaks.

7) Ladle the soup into very hot soup plates and garnish each plate with about 2 tablespoons of the red pepper cream.

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