Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Calling in the librarian super powers!

I went to Rhode Island for five days to hang out with my parents & siblings. Since 1996, my sister and younger brother and I have cooked an elaborate feast on Christmas Eve; since John missed Christmas this year, we planned to do one of our sessions during this visit. We chose a greatest hits theme, picking some of our favorites from the last 13 menus (most of which I have, at least the names of the menu items).

In 1996, Mary made an amazing roasted eggplant & red pepper soup. We knew that had to be on the menu, but when she got to RI, she realized she'd forgotten to bring the recipe, the book was out of print, and she couldn't find a similar-looking recipe online.. Librarians to the rescue! We knew the title of the book (Healthy First Courses) and author (Diane Rossen Worthington), and I used Worldcat to see what libraries still have the book. As it happens, it's in the closed stacks at Multnomah County Public Library, and one of my friends from grad school works in their Central branch. A quick Facebook message and we were on our way! She found the book, transcribed the recipe, and sent it to me via Facebook. How modern!

So here, for posterity, is the recipe for  
Roasted Red Pepper, Eggplant, and Garlic soup

2 red bell peppers
1 eggplant, halved length wise
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
4 cups poultry stock
4 tablespoons fresh basil

  1. Preheat broiler. Place the poppers on a broiling pan under the broiler about 4 inches from the heat source. Roast, turning occasionally, until the skin is blistered and slightly charred on all sides, 6-8 minutes. Transfer to paper bag, close tight, let rest for ten minutes. Remove from bag, peel charred skin. Halve peppers, remove the stems, seeds, and ribs. [we cheated and used jarred roasted red peppers]
  2. Preheat oven to 400. Coat a roasting pan with nonstick spray. Sprinkle the eggplant halves with salt and pepper. Place them, cut side up, with the garlic in the pan and bake, turning once, until brown and tender when pierced with a fork, about 45 minutes.
  3. Halve the eggplant again, place in food processor. Add the garlic and puree, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, until smooth, but with a little texture remaining, about 20 seconds. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. [we used an immersion blender]
  4. Clean processor bowl and add the bell peppers and cayenne pepper. Puree, scraping down the sides halfway through, until very smooth, about 1 minute. [again, we used the immersion blender, being sure to clean it between batches to keep the flavors separate]
  5. In a saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and saute, stirring, until very tender, 10-12 minutes. Cover and cook for 5 minutes longer. Add the eggplant puree and the poultry stock, stir to mix well and bring to a simmer. Stir until well blended.
  6. To serve, ladle into individual bowls. Stir an equal amount of red pepper puree into each serving, without mixing it in completely. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon basil atop each bowl.
It was as delicious as we remembered - definitely a Greatest Hit!

The whole menu:
Roasted eggplant soup
veggie sushi rolls
Vietnamese shaking beef salad
individual baked alaskas (cut an orange in half, hollow it out, fill with vanilla ice cream, cover with meringue, and cook at 500 for 5 minutes. easy and delicious!)

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