Amy Cotler’s Tuscan Tomato Bread Soup
My husband may be the love of my life, but soup is my culinary ballast, reliably providing a hug, asking little in return, only a bowl to hold it and a spoon to consume it. And this soup is summer’s embrace—a trip to Tuscany-in-a-bowl. Make Poppa al Pomadoro now through September when tomatoes are at their peak. You can serve this soup hot, cold or at room temperature. And, as my daughter, Emma, discovered, the left-overs make a fabulous baguette sandwich.
— Amy Cotler, The Locavore Way: Discover and Enjoy the Pleasures of Locally Grown Food
Tomato Bread Soup
Serves 6 - 8
8 cups chopped, skinned & seeded summer tomatoes & their juices (see #1, below)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
About 1/4 - 1/2 cup olive oil
About 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
6 cups peasant or Italian bread, torn up (include crusts), stale or toasted (1/2 lb)
2 - 3 cups chicken stock or water
About 35 basil leaves, shredded or torn into small pieces
Up to 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, optional
Up to 1 teaspoon sugar, optional
Coarsely ground or cracked pepper to taste
1. Plunge about 8 tomatoes into a pot of boiling water. Remove with a slotted spoon or tongs. When they are cool enough to handle, slip off their skins. Cut in half and seed with a spoon, reserving their juices. You can seed them through a sieve if you like, letting the juices run through into a bowl. Cut into wedges. You should have about 8 cups with the juices. (Note: You will need more tomatoes if you use plum tomatoes. Simply use what’s best.)
2. In a medium pot, sauté the garlic and hot chili pepper flakes in the olive oil over low heat until aromatic, about 1 minute tops. Do not brown. Add the tomatoes and salt. Cook over medium-low heat until the tomatoes render their juices, about 20 minutes, stirring periodically to break them up.
3. Add the bread and 2 cups of the chicken stock or water. Cook for an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to break up the bread. Stir most of the basil, reserving the rest for garnish. Taste. If needed stir in: up to 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, up to 1 teaspoon sugar and up to 1 cup additional stock, depending on the juiciness of the tomatoes. Let rest for at least an hour before serving.
4. To serve: Taste, adding salt and cracked or coarsely ground pepper, if needed. Ladle into warm bowls. Garnish each with about a 1 teaspoon olive oil and a few leaves of torn or slivered basil.