So, today when a picnic that I was supposed to attend was canceled due to the dreary weather, it seemed like a good day to make Pappa al Pomodoro, a Tuscan dish which I haven't eaten since I was in graduate school. I had picked up some tomatoes at the Greenmarket yesterday from Keith's Farm, and I had some stale bread left over from one of the meals that I had had at Eataly last week. With two of the key components in hand, I decided to put this together for lunch.
As with many Italian dishes, it is the attention to using the best ingredients possible to pull together the flavors that makes the difference. Using seasonal ingredients, like the tomatoes, basil and garlic, high-quality olive oil, and good (but stale) bakery bread, are key to create a meal that is simple but fulfilling. With the end of summer approaching, this is a great way to try to capture the last of its warmth in a bowl.
Pappa al Pomodoro
Prep time: 20 minutes
Serving Size: 2 adult portions
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 large clove of garlic, cut into thin slices
3 slices of stale bakery bread (not sourdough), cut in half
4 good-sized tomatoes, peeled, de-seeded, and chopped
1 c. vegetarian vegetable stock
1 Tbsp basil cut into strips*
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
parmesan cheese, grated
Warm olive oil in large skillet over medium-low heat for 30 seconds. Add garlic slices and continue to cook for another 30 seconds as they release their aroma into the oil. Place bread in one layer in the pan and cook on each side for one minute.
Put the tomatoes and any reserved juice into the pan. Pour in the vegetable stock. Raise the heat to medium and let the mixture cook down for 5-7 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and have broken down to create a sauce with the stock. The bread will also absorb some of the stock and the tomato juices.
Turn off the heat. Sprinkle the basil and black pepper on top and stir to incorporate. Save a few pieces of basil as garnish. Dish up three pieces of the bread and half of the tomato mixture per bowl. Garnish with the basil, grate parmesan cheese on top, and drizzle several drops of extra-virgin olive oil over everything. Serve while still warm.
*Kitchen Witch Tip
Cutting basil (and other leafy food items) into long thin strips is called "chiffonade." This technique creates prettier and more uniform pieces than simply tearing up the herb. To make this, wipe off the basil leaves, put them one on top of the other, roll them together lengthwise, and chop across. You will end up with something that looks like this: