By Christine Vartanian Datian
1 1/2 cups eggplant, peeled and cubed
1 cup fresh or canned tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 cup carrots, peeled and diced
1 cup fresh mushrooms, diced
1 cup zucchini, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery and top greens, diced
1/2 cup yellow squash, chopped
1/2 cup frozen peas, rinsed
1/2 medium onion, diced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 15 oz. can white beans or garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 small head escarole (or Napa cabbage or spinach), washed and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon each crushed dried basil and oregano (fresh basil and oregano may be used)
4 cups low-sodium chicken or beef broth and 3 cups water (to taste)
Kosher or sea salt and black pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, paprika (to taste)
Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese, grated, or crumbled Feta cheese
Chopped fresh basil as garnish
Sauté the onions and garlic in a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large soup pan. Add the eggplant, tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms, zucchini, celery, squash and peas, toss, and cook until the onions are translucent. Add the broth, water, tomato paste, beans, and choice of spices, stir a few times, and bring to a full boil.
Cover and cook for 55-60 minutes on medium low heat or until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. About 15 minutes before the soup is done, roughly chop the escarole, add to the soup, stir, and continue cooking. Adjust seasonings.
To serve, ladle soup into individual bowls and garnish with cheese, chopped fresh basil, and crushed red pepper flakes. Drizzle with olive oil, if desired.