01 09 10

search you little tarte

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Perfect Day

By all accounts, last Friday shouldn't have been a perfect day.  To start with, the temperature never got out of the teens and it snowed off and on all day.  Kate didn't get a snow day, despite the absence of plows anywhere in the city of Pittsburgh.  She did get a two hour delay, but since she was gunning for a snow day, as far as she was concerned, going to school later than usual was a sorry substitute.  And it was laundry day.  As I said, it shouldn't have been a perfect day.  But, oddly enough, it was.

Why, you're probably thinking, was it a perfect day?  Well, I'll tell you.  It was a perfect day because I spent the entire day in my kitchen aimlessly cooking.  This is my absolute favorite thing to do, and I don't get to do it often enough.  This is not to say that I don't spend a lot of time in my kitchen, because I do.  It's just that  usually I'm more directed in what I'm doing.  I'm putting dinner together or cleaning up from a meal.  I'm not just puttering around, trolling the pantry and refrigerator for ingredients that might go together to create something that I didn't know I was dying to have.

I started out in the pantry.  I few weeks ago I was at Penn Mac, a great Italian market in the Strip District of Pittsburgh,  and they had San Marzano tomatoes on sale.  As far as I am concerned, the San Marzano tomato is the gold standard by which all other canned tomatoes should be measured.  Anyway, since I love a good buy, I bought six cans and stuck them in my too small pantry.  After the tomatoes, I remembered a ciabatta I had purchased a few days ago but had never gotten around to using.  This was starting to feel a lot like Poppa al Pomadoro, Italian bread soup.  A trip to the refrigerator revealed that I had everything there that I needed to concoct the soup.  I was off and running.

I love Poppa al Pomadoro.  Come on, bread soup.   What's not to love?  And this is the bread soup of the gods.  It's rustic and hearty and perfect for a cold winter night.  I cannot tell you when I've felt as relaxed as I did as I chopped, sauteed, and stirred.  Isn't that what cooking is all about?   Well, isn't that what cooking should be all about?

The soup was delicious.  As I said, a perfect day.

Recipe:  Pappa al Pomodoro
(Adapted from Ina Garten, Back to Basics, 2008)

Note:  One ciabatta bread is enough for both the soup and the topping.


1/2 cup olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
1 cup medium diced carrots (3 carrots)
1 fennel bulb, cored and medium diced (1 1/2 cups)
4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 large cloves)
3 cups (1 inch) diced ciabatta bread, crusts removed
2 (28 ounce) cans San Marzano whole tomatoes
1 cannellini beans, rinsed
4 cups homemade chicken stock
1/2 cup red wine
1 cup fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

3 cups (1 inch) ciabatta bread
2 tablespoons olive oil

Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat.  Add the onions, carrots, fennel, and garlic and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until tender.  Add the ciabatta cubes and cook for 5 minutes more.  Place the tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process just until coarsely chopped.  Add the tomatoes to the pot along with the chicken stock, red wine, basil, beans, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper.  Bring the soap to a boil, lower the heat, and allow to simmer, partially covered for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375.

For the topping, toss the remaining ciabatta cubes with the olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet in a single layer.  Bake, stirring occasionally, for about 25 minutes, until the cubes are crisp.

Reheat the soup, if necessary, and beat with a wire whisk until the bread is broken up.  Stir in the Parmesan and taste for seasoning.  Serve hot sprinkled with the croutons and drizzled with additional olive oil.

No comments:

Post a Comment