herb soup with eggplant bacon

One day in late spring I was cooking so many things at once that my counter was covered in tough, outer baby artichoke leaves, leek tops and empty pea pods. I could have tossed them all out but I bagged them and shoved them in the freezer instead. Weeks later, I soaked the scraps in warm water to thaw them, rinsed them well, and along with some garlic they formed the flavor base of a fresh, cool spring soup in the heat of summer. After simmering for half an hour, I strained and discarded those dutiful misfits, lowered bundles of bright herbs in to add the top notes to my soup, then cooled it before serving.

While I was happy to use those scraps so well, the whole reason behind making this soup was to chop up what might seem like too many fresh herbs and serve them on top. I’ve been obsessed with the idea of sipping a soup and practically having to chew on fresh herbs since I had a similar experience at ABC Kitchen–their sweet pea soup had generous strands of mint floating on top of it. It wasn’t overpowering at all, but it was such a memorable part of the soup.

Although the croutons in their soup were delicious, I think I chose an even better topping for mine, if I do say so myself. Remember that eggplant bacon I wrote about once? I skipped the fake stuff (liquid smoke) and instead brushed my eggplant with smoked paprika, oil and salt before roasting the slivers in the oven. I wasn’t expecting them to come out looking anything like bacon, so I had to show you the picture below. How did the eggplant know what I wanted it to become?

Magic.

Everything at ABC Kitchen was wonderful–except for me. I had been dreaming of dining there for over a year, hearing nothing but rave reviews, tweets and “mmmm”‘s and as I put on my dress to get ready…I almost threw up. Out of nowhere. Just not feeling so good. Le sigh… I did my best to literally grin and bear it but I only got through the first course. The soup was so good, it resonated despite my horrible state, but clearly I need a do-over as soon as possible. I can tell you that the pickled snacks they start you off with, the creative cocktails (I had only sips of them–that is how low I felt), the service and the stunning, rustic yet whimsical setting were without flaw. Get there if you can.