A variety of herbs and wholesome vegetables underscores the lush flavor of freshly grilled eggplant, which transforms a simple vegetable soup into something unique. Broiling the eggplant is simpler, but grilling it adds a distinctive taste.
Heat 3 tablespoons oil in skillet over medium heat and sauté onion, carrots, celery and garlic until soft, about 5 minutes. Add herbs and fennel seeds and cook 2 minutes more. Remove from heat and set aside.
Grill or broil eggplant until skin is black and blistered and inside is soft. Remove stem, and scoop insides into large saucepan. Add sautéed vegetables, tomatoes, vinegar, salt, pepper and tomato juice or water.
Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Purée in food processor or blender until liquid is red with black specks from charred skins. If soup is too thick, thin with more tomato juice or water. Season to taste, and drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil.
Choose a crisp, organic Sauvignon Blanc like Napa Wine Cellars to match the strong flavor,
or select a nice Dolcetto, such as one from Clerico, a great producer.