I’ve just recently accepted a client who wants me to make one soup per week for him. For the whole year. This offering is a great start for our relationship. It’s easy to make, it utilizes some items your might have kicking around anyway, and it only gets better as the week progresses. When I was working as the Sous Chef for Ottimista in the Marina, I used to make this pretty often. There are a few dishes based on the ‘cucina povera‘ or cooking of the poor that have been popularized over the last several years. Old bread (or stale bread) is put to use in several of them. Here’s what you’ll need to pull this off:
-Some bread (baguette, Tuscan loaf, or some other un-garnished bread), herbs, onion, garlic, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, some stock or broth.
The Basic Recipe (yields about 1 gallon)
- 2 onions (small dice)
- 1 head garlic (thin slices)
- 1 small (6 oz) can tomato paste
- 1 pound bread (small dices, toasted)
- 1 tsp. crushed chili flakes
- 1 small bay leaf
- 2 cups red wine
- 2 medium (28 oz) cans tomato puree
- 4 (14oz) cans stock
- 4-8 TBSP. Fresh Herbs (minced)
- 2-4 TBSP. red wine vinegar
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Start by cutting the bread into little pieces. Get an oven going at 350 and toss these guys in until they are slightly toasted and dry. Set a timer for about 15-20 minutes and check them every few minutes if they aren’t quite done.
Meanwhile, cut up the onions –
And the garlic. I like to use a little Japanese mandolin. Mind the finger tips!
Sweat the onion, garlic, and chili flakes together with a little olive oil until the vegetables are soft and translucent.
Like this –
Now, add the can of tomato paste and cook it for a couple of minutes. This will develop a little richer flavor. Next, add the wine, and reduce the wine by at least half. Then add the crushed tomatoes and half of the stock.
It might look something like this –
At this point add the toasted bread bits.
Add the herb (and bay). I like to use leafy herbs in warmer months (basil, tarragon, parsley), and stemmy herbs (rosemary, thyme, even sage) in colder months.
Put a lid on it, and let the soup simmer for 20-30 minutes. Check the consistency, and add the remaining stock if desired. The bread will continue to soak up liquid during the cooking process, so depending on the type of bread you’ve chosen, and the consistency you prefer, you will find you need more stock (or not).
This is the thickness that I like. It’s sort of reminds me of a chili soup. Now you should make your tastes for seasoning. Adjust with the red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper as needed to your liking.
I chose to garnish with some creme fraiche, balsamic, and a little extra virgin olive oil. Fresh herbs are also a welcome finish, as is grated cheese, or whatever your heart desires.
I hope you enjoy this soup. It is hearty, and bright all at once, and you can take it in many directions. 52 weeks of soup are looming large on my horizon. I’ll try and send the best ones your way.
Cheers, my dears-