Vegetable bread soup

(food styling/lisa falso; wiqan ang for the boston globe)
By Christine Merlo
March 11, 2009

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Serves 8

A bowl of hearty vegetable soup is satisfying. Here, red wine and chicken stock provide a savory base to mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini, and yellow squash, which simmer with garlic, onion, thyme, and rosemary. After cooking for almost an hour, a portion of the soup is pureed and poured back into the pot to thicken the mixture. Instead of serving the soup with bread, break the bread into chunks and toast them until golden. Add a few to the bowl before ladling in the soup, then scatter more on the top. The cubes soften and soak up the broth and add more texture. Finish with a sprinkle of Parmesan and parsley. Warm the big bowls.

2tablespoons olive oil, and more for brushing
1large onion, chopped
8ounces button mushrooms, thinly sliced
3cloves garlic, chopped
1large eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1large yellow squash, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes, crushed in a bowl
1red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1cup dry red wine
4cups chicken stock
1teaspoon chopped rosemary
1teaspoon chopped thyme
1baguette or chewy sourdough bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2teaspoons sugar (optional)
1/2cup shredded Parmesan
2tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1. In a large stockpot, heat the oil on medium high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, for 8 minutes or until it is translucent. Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook 3 minutes more.

2. Add the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes and their juices, bell pepper, salt, and black pepper. Cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes.

3. Turn up the heat and add the wine, stock, rosemary, and thyme. Bring to a boil. Let the mixture bubble steadily for 5 minutes. Turn down the heat and cover the pot. Simmer for 45 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

4. Set the oven at 350 degrees.

5. On a rimmed baking sheet, place the bread cubes in an even layer. Brush with oil. Toast the bread for 12 to 15 minutes or until it is lightly golden; set aside.

6. When the vegetables are tender, use a ladle to transfer 1 1/2 cups of the soup to a blender. Puree the soup until smooth, then tip the mixture back into the pot. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if you like. If the soup is bitter, add the sugar and stir to dissolve it.

7. Place a few bread cubes in each of 8 soup bowls. Ladle the soup on top, add more bread, Parmesan, and a sprinkle of parsley.