August 11, 2009
This past Sunday as I worked my part-time job as a market manager for the Dupont Circle farmers’ market in steamy 95 degree weather, the last thing on my mind was soup. However, just a few short weeks ago at the market, I was slipping in tastes of the guest chef’s papa al pomodoro – tomato and bread soup – in between handing out samples to eager market shoppers waiting to taste the seasonal flavors being featured that day.
That weekend’s heat was no match for this past Sunday, but it was warm none the less. One would think that warm soup is an odd offering during the summer, but the flavors of Sara Polon’s (Souper Girl, the guest chef) soup left many people delighted. I was one of them.
Papa al pomodoro is a traditional Italian soup that makes use of day old bread and the bright flavors of fresh summer tomatoes and basil. My adaptation of Sara’s recipe uses vegetable broth instead of water. You could also try chicken broth instead. In addition, my version adds parsley and rosemary for more layers of flavor.
Since it is summer, I wouldn’t serve this piping hot, but warm. It makes a great lunch and would also do well for dinner served with a salad or roasted chicken.
As Sara recommends, uses the freshest tomatoes you can find. At this time of year, that’s easy – get them out of your garden (in my case, I wish) or pick them up at your nearest farmers’ market! Buon Appetito!
Papa al Pomodoro (Italian Tomato and Bread Soup)
Adapted from recipe by Souper Girl, Sara Polon
Serves 5 – 8
6 large, fresh tomatoes (about 3 pounds)
1 medium onion, diced
4 gloves garlic, minced
4 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
2 sprigs rosemary
1 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped or chiffonade
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1/3 loaf of day old country bread (Italian or French)
Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil. With a large spoon, gently add unpeeled tomatoes to the water. After 30 seconds, remove tomatoes with spoon and plunge into a bowl of cold water. Tomatoes should now peel easily by hand. Coarsely chop peeled tomatoes (core them also) and set aside along with their juice.
Empty water from stockpot and wipe clean. Add olive oil to pot and set over medium heat. Add onions and cook until translucent (stir occasionally), about 8 – 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another 3 minutes (remember, never burn garlic or it will ruin the entire dish).
Add tomatoes, including their juice to the pot along with 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to a simmer (about 5 minutes). Add vegetable broth, parsley, rosemary sprigs and basil. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Add a drizzle of olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon sugar, and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut bread up into 1″ size cubes. Taste soup for flavor. Add another sprinkle of salt if necessary. Stir in bread being sure to submerge the bread. Remove pot from heat, cover and let sit for 15 minutes. Remove rosemary sprigs and serve. Garnish with a little basil chiffonade (optional).