115g vegetable stock
Pinch of saffron
Pinch of turmeric
Pinch of red Padrón chile flakes
50g pure olive oil
250g vegetable stock
25g fruity olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, toasted
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander, toasted
⅛ teaspoon ground red Padrón chile
10g lemon juice
2 g Rosa’s vinegar (or sherry vinegar)
200g Early Girl tomatoes
200g red piquillo peppers
50g vegetable stock
25g tomato juice
100g red pepper juice
50g red onion
100g summer squash
100g red pepper
Pure olive oil
10g cilantro stems, minced
10g nepitella, minced
Salt and black pepper
Fruity olive oil
Cilantro sprouts or leaves
Note | A few things about the soups. They change a lot as they sit and cool and sit so season them, put them in the refrigerator for an hour or two, and then reseason them. Salt and acid drop out, sweetness fades, all kinds of untoward things happen. You may need to add sugar, if the vegetables are not sweet enough, or if the vegetable stock isn’t concentrated enough. Sacrilege, I know, to bolster vegetable sugars with cane sugar. But if you’re looking for fullness of flavor, a sweet/sour balance, the perfect level of salt and to highlight the vegetables as the stars, sometimes only a pinch or two of sugar will get you there.
For the squash soup, cook the cut squash, vegetable stock, water, saffron, turmeric, chile, salt and pure olive oil at a brisk simmer, covered, until baby-food tender. Blend, pass through a chinois, and cool quickly in an ice bath. When it’s cold, season with salt and lime.
For the eggplant soup, grill the eggplant in a cast iron pan, or on a grill or a plancha, until well blackened. Bake in the oven at 350°F (175°C) until tender. Cool and scoop out the flesh. Simmer with vegetable stock, olive oil and spices. Blend, pass through a chinois into an ice bath and cool. Season with lemon juice and an oxidized vinegar, like sherry vinegar. We use Rosa’s. There should be much more lemon than vinegar, which can give the soup a harsh flavor if you add too much.
For the tomato-pepper soup, use sweet red tomatoes, like Early Girls, and ripe piquillo peppers. Cook the tomato, pepper (no seeds) and the vegetable stock at a brisk simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the pepper has softened. Purée, pass through a chinois into an ice bath, and cool. Add the tomato and pepper juices, and season with salt. If the soup seems too sweet, add a little lime juice.If you want to make a straight piquillo pepper soup, combine raw pepper and charred pepper with the vegetable stock. Cook at a brisk simmer for 15 minutes, until the peppers are just tender. Blend, strain and cool. Add the fresh pepper juice, and season with salt.
Note |All of the soups should have the same thickness, so that they creep instead of run across the bottom of the bowl when poured.
For the ratatouille, mince the onions and cut the vegetables in 1/4-inch (5-mm) dice. Squash and eggplant: cut so that one side of the dice has the skin. Pepper and tomato: peel and seed first. Cook the vegetables separately in pure olive oil—enough to coat but don’t drown them—over high heat, stirring constantly. They’re small, they’ll go fast. Start with the squash, then the eggplant, then the pepper, using the same pan the entire time, not cleaning it in between. Season with salt as they cook. As each vegetable is done, spread out on a plate to cool. After the peppers are cooked, turn the heat down to low and add the onion and cook until tender and sweet. Add the tomato, stir to combine, and cook 30 seconds more. Pull the pan off the heat for a minute and then add to the rest of the vegetables. Allow them to cool in the refrigerator for 15 minutes, then combine and season with salt, a little black pepper, minced cilantro stems and minced nepitella. Refrigerate.
To serve, ladle 30 g of each of the squash and eggplant soups simultaneously on each side of a soup bowl so that they meet in the middle, ’80s style. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of ratatouille in the center, and drizzle a little fruity olive oil around. Garnish with cilantro sprouts or small cilantro leaves, and nepitella flowers. Pour 20 g of the tomato-pepper soup into one spot in the squash soup. To eat, put your spoon in the red dot, stir once around and have at.