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Eggplant soup with cabernet


Jordan cabernet sauvignon is one of Sonoma County's iconic wines and the first local wine I got to know well, back when its inaugural 1976 vintage was released. Our Wine of the Week, Jordan 2008 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($52), delivers on that long ago promise of elegance, balance and beauty. Year after year, Jordan cabernet sauvignon meets and exceeds expectations.

This is not to say that vintages are interchangeable. They aren't. The wines express both place and time. In this instance, the winemaker had to grapple with dramatic circumstances — a dry winter and spring, late frosts, early heat waves and prolonged high temperatures right at the start of harvest. But fall turned cool, rains didn't come until November and, somehow, it all resulted in wines with an appealing delicacy, which you can taste in this wine.

Aromas suggest an orchard in spring, with wisps of sweet cherries, warm black earth and something resembling jasmine blossoms, but in a subtle way, as if carried a long distance on the wind. On the palate, red and black fruits unite in silky splendor, as suggestions of oak, sweet spice, leather and black peppercorns reverberate on the wine's luxurious finish.

There are plenty of options at the table. Any red meat — duck, goat, lamb, venison and, of course, beef — will be flattered by this wine. Sauces that feature soy sauce, blackberries, slow-cooked tomatoes and red-wine reductions are excellent companions, too. Traditional ragu is a great match but you might serve it with grilled eggplant instead of pasta, which suggestions another excellent possibility, moussaka.

For today's recipe, I've drawn inspiration from moussaka but have taken things in a different direction. I suggest serving leg of lamb stuffed with black-olive tapenade as the main course and have posted that recipe at Eat This Now, which you can find at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. For a celebratory fall feast, start the meal with this elegant eggplant soup and have a big green salad with fresh figs and a honey-balsamic vinaigrette ready to serve after the lamb.

Greek-Inspired Roasted Eggplant Soup

Makes 4 servings

2 pounds eggplant

— Olive oil, for brushing eggplant

— Kosher salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 red onion, minced

8 garlic cloves, minced

3 cups lamb stock, chicken stock or vegetable stock

— Black pepper in a mill

4 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley

2 ounces brined feta or Kasseri cheese, crumbled

1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded, and cut into small julienne; 1/4 cup black olive tapenade; 1/2 cup whole milk yogurt; or 2 teaspoons za'atar (see Note below)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the eggplants in half, lengthwise. Brush the cut surfaces with a little olive oil, season with salt, set on a baking sheet, set in the oven and cook until very tender, about 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the eggplant. Remove from the oven, cool, peel and chop. Set aside.

Pour the olive oil into a heavy soup pot or sauce pan, set over medium low heat, add the onions and saute until very limp and fragrant, about 12 to 15 minutes. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute more.

Add the chopped eggplant and continue to cook, stirring all the while, until the eggplant begins to fall apart, about 15 minutes. Add the stock, increase the heat and when the liquid boils, return the heat to medium low. Cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes.

Remove from the heat and cool for about 15 minutes. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup thoroughly and then pass it through a sieve or strainer into a clean pot. Heat through, taste, correct for salt and season with several turns of black pepper. Stir in the parsley and remove from the heat.

To serve, ladle into soup plates and scatter the cheese on top, along with roasted peppers, tapenade, yogurt or za'atar. Serve immediately.

Note: If you are feeling ambitious, you can use all of these toppings on the soup, though in small amounts. The mingling of flavors is quite extraordinary. But the soup is also delicious with just a single topping. Za'atar, when used in a culinary context, refers to a condiment made with toasted sesame seeds, dried sumac, salt and, sometimes, other herbs such as dried thyme and oregano. It has become widely available from spice vendors such as Penzey's, The Spice House and Savory Spice Shop.

Michele Anna Jordan hosts "Mouthful" each Sunday at 7p.m. on KRCB 90.9 & 91.1 FM.

E-mail Jordan at michele@micheleannajordan.com. You'll find her blog, "Eat This Now," at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.