Those of you who read Superspark regularly might remember my raves about the The Zuni Cafe Cookbook’s Pappa al Pomodoro earlier in the summer. At the time, we were deluged with ripe, homegrown tomatoes and discovered this wonderful recipe that would not only use up some of our vast tomato reserves, but was a soggy bread-based dish (oh, how I love those!).
Though September is upon us, summer is still going strong in Pasadena. As I biked over to the gym the other day, my eyelids literally felt scalded from the heat and the hum of thousands of air conditioners running all over town provides constant white noise. As temperatures reached over 100 degrees this past week, our poor tomato plants bore the brunt of it. Being city dwellers (and I use the term loosely, as Pasadena is not exactly New York), our tomato plants sit potted in the courtyard of our apartment building, a courtyard that traps the heat and stifles even the slightest breeze. Sort of like an oven. And in fact, the last of our summer tomatoes seemed to be slow-roasting while still on the plant. Their skins began to pucker a bit as the flesh inside dehydrated, leaving the saddest looking tomatoes you’ve ever seen. Even with some premature picking, we had a whole bowlful of tomatoes that had clearly seen far too much sun this summer.
Yes, we could have made a terrific sauce to put away for the winter. Or we could have finished the slow-roasting process as so many food bloggers seem to be doing at the moment. But in a coincidence of timing, the Wednesday Chef posted a recipe for tomato and bread soup that sounded an awful lot like a variation on my beloved Pappa al Pomodoro. While I love the original recipe, I couldn’t resist putting those forlorn tomatoes to good use by trying this variation by Bill Telepan.
Turns out, the final product is virtually identical to the Zuni Cafe Cookbook’s Pappa al Pomodoro. I feel a little silly, then, posting such a similar recipe so soon after then first, but after a bit of hemming and hawing, I decided it’s good enough to merit a second mention. And on the plus side, in this incarnation, I skipped the tomato peeling step and left the crusts on the bread cubes and found that it was just as good despite my laziness. A couple of small differences in the two recipes- this one used less bread and more tomatoes, making for a slightly saucier version, and this one suggested cheese on top (ricotta salata, though I used a sprinkle of parmesan instead). Whichever version you make, this is a perfect use for those last few summer tomatoes…and if it’s already fall where you live, this is a recipe to bookmark and dream about for next summer.
Tomato and bread soup (3-4 small servings)
3 pounds good tomatoes
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups sourdough bread, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup grated ricotta salata (or freshly grated parmesan, to taste)
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil leaves
1. Core and quarter tomatoes. Place tomatoes in food processor and pulse to chop, but not too fine.
2. Heat oil in 4-quart saucepan. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft, but not browned. Add tomatoes and their juices. Season with salt and pepper, bring to a slow simmer and cook 45 minutes, covered, stirring from time to time.
3. When the soup has simmered for 45 minutes, stir the bread cubes into the soup and simmer for an additional 10 to 15 minutes.
4. Garnish with cheese and minced basil and serve hot or at room temperature.