If lentils were not the first vegetable man ever ate, they certainly were an early favorite. In 1967, when William Heinemann and Harvard University Press reprinted Athenaeus: The Deipnosophists in seven volumes, I plowed through four, and on the inside cover I listed what got my attention: “grilled sturgeon belly, scotch broth, pickled turnip, fresh cheese salad, underground refrigerators, sweet chickpeas, lentil soup with parsnips.” Since I love both lentils and parsnips, I tried the soup.
Make four equally-spaced cuts
Take out the eggplants, wipe them clean, saving the marinade, salt them, and cook over a low gas flame for about 8 minutes, turning them constantly. If you don’t have a gas stove, skip this step—you will miss a wonderful smoky flavor, but it is worth doing the soup anyway. Even better if you have a wood-burning “pizza” oven.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Put the eggplants in a pot with the parsnip and all the reserved marinade. Add
Puree everything and put through a medium-fine sieve.
Chop the basil leaves and mix them with the cream. Add a little salt and whisk until firm peaks form.
Heat the soup and season with salt, pepper, the remaining teaspoon of cumin, and the lime juice. Serve in warm open soup plates with a dollop of the basil cream in the center and the chili flakes on top of the cream.
Use mascarpone instead of the cream, and use fresh mint and basil with a touch of ancho chili puree instead of the flakes.
© 2002 Jeremiah Tower. All rights reserved.