Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Pappa al who?

I don't cut sandwiches into cute shapes for my kids. I don't build log cabins out of carrots. I don't call things by cutesy names to get them to eat things. (Calling broccoli "trees" may be fun, but has it ever reformed a true veggie-hater?)

But, when the Big Bean asked what was for dinner the other night, I stumbled a bit. "It's, uh, um, pizza soup." Pappa al pomodoro, a great way to use up stale bread and get an instant hit of summer. But what the Big Bean wanted to know was what would it taste like. Minus the cheese, it tastes like pizza soup.

No basil from our farmer yet, no decent tomatoes to speak of in our part of the world, but I did have an unloved baguette on the counter. I softened it up in a warm oven, spritzing it with water, and welcomed the first hot days of summer.

Big Bean: Thumbs up
Little Bean: Thumbs down

So, here it is, pizza soup, adapted from this month's Gourmet for our family of 2 + 2(.5) eaters.

1 large onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 28 oz. can whole Italian tomatoes (no tomatoes for us, yet!)
1.5 cups water (plus more as needed)
1 cup fresh basil, chopped
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 day-old loaf of white bread, cubed (I used a baguette and left some crust on. Gourmet calls for Italian country bread and removes the crust.)

(I say the food processor is okay for that onion, don't know what Ruth Reichl says.) Place oil, onion, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in large heavy saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are very soft and beginning to brown, about 30 minutes. (Don't rush this! You don't want crispy onion bits in there.)
Add tomatoes, water, basil, garlic, and remaining salt and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens. Break up tomatoes with your spoon. Taste for seasoning and add bread. Simmer, stirring occasionally, breaking up the bread, until it has absorbed most of the liquid. You'll have a thick mixture. Add water to thin it down, if you want. Serve sprinkled with basil and drizzled with olive oil.

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