Tuscan Tomato Bread Soup

Winter 2012
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food and drink

BY: Marilyn Bentz-Crowley

This comforting Italian soup captures the essence of summers past. The only indulgence is a few fresh herbs grown in climes currently sunny and warm, however a generous spoonful of pesto can substitute for the fresh herbs. Tuscan Pecorino Romano is a sheep’s-milk cheese that is much like, but distinct in taste from, Parmesan. Leave the crust on bread cubes for added interest.

1 small onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
1 can (946 mL) diced tomatoes
2 to 2½ cups (500 to 625 mL) chicken broth
2 cups (500 mL) stale or toasted
Potato Sourdough Bread cubes, about ¾-inch (2-cm) square
1 large sprig fresh thyme
½ tsp (2 mL) salt
⅛ to ¼ tsp (0.5 to 1 mL) hot chili flakes
3 to 4 tbsp (45 to 60 mL) chopped fresh herbs such as basil and parsley
4 to 6 tbsp (60 to 90 mL) freshly grated
Pecorino Romano cheese

1 Using a large saucepan, sauté onion and garlic in oil over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and 2 cups (500 mL) broth. Add bread and thyme; stir in salt and chili flakes.

2 Bring to a boil; reduce heat so mixture just simmers, uncovered. Cook 30 to 40 minutes over medium to medium-low heat to reduce slightly. Most of bread breaks down, leaving some small dumpling-like pieces still visible. Remove thyme sprig.

3 Taste; if very thick, add remaining ½ cup (125 mL) chicken stock. Stir most of chopped herbs into soup. Toss remaining herbs with cheese. Ladle hot soup into warmed bowls;  generously garnish with cheese mixture.

Serves 4

SUN-DRIED TOMATO BREAD WITH SHALLOTS & HERBS

Oil drained from sun-dried tomatoes adds a rosy hue and tomato flavour to this loaf. A 210- to 270-mL jar of julienned sun-dried tomatoes in oil is enough for this recipe with some left over for other uses such as vinaigrettes. This fragrant bread is a fine accompaniment to pasta, stew or soup

1 tsp (5 mL) olive oil
3 large shallots, finely diced
½ cup (125 mL) drained sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
1 tbsp (15 mL) yeast, instant or traditional
1¾ cups (425 mL) water, just warm to the touch
1 tbsp (15 mL) sugar
3 tbsp (45 mL) oil drained from sun-dried tomatoes
1 tbsp (15 mL) fi nely chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 tsp (10 mL) salt
1½ tsp (7 mL) dried oregano leaves
4 to 5 cups (1 to 1.25 L) all-purpose flour

1 Heat olive oil in a very small frying pan over medium heat. Add shallots; cook 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until softened. Cool to lukewarm; stir in sun-dried tomato bits.

2 Proof yeast by stirring warm water with sugar and sprinkling yeast overtop, then setting aside for 5 to 10 minutes. Then stir to dissolve yeast completely.

3 Meanwhile stir tomato oil, thyme, salt and oregano in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Stir in the proofed yeast mixture. Slowly add 3 cups (750 mL) of flour, mixing well.

4 Stir ¼ cup (60 mL) flour into shallot mixture; add to dough, mixing in well. Continue adding flour until dough is becoming hard to stir. Then turn out onto a well-floured work surface or continue to use stand mixer.

5 Begin to knead dough, adding flour slowly as needed to have a soft yet well-formed dough, from 5 to 10 minutes. All flour may not be needed. Turn into a large generously oiled bowl; turn dough ball in bowl so all is coated with oil.Loosely cover with a piece of plastic wrap; let rise for 1 hour or until doubled. (For delayed baking, turn dough that has not yet risen into a large oiled mixing bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill for up to a day. While refrigerated, dough rises slowly. When ready to bake, go directly to step 6 to shape loaf.) 6 Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Pressing down to burst large bubbles, press out dough into a 12-inch (30-cm) square. Tightly roll up into a long loaf. Place, smooth-side up, on large parchment-lined baking sheet.

7 Lightly oil top of loaf with additional olive or tomato oil; loosely cover with plastic wrap. Let rise on top of or in vicinity of warm oven (not over oven vent!) for 30 to 45 minutes or until dough has doubled. (Refrigerated dough takes about 1¼ hours to double.)

8 Remove plastic wrap. Using a serrated knife gently placed on top of the loaf, draw knife gently across top of dough to form a pattern of 4 or 5 evenly spaced shallow slashes.

9 Bake in centre of preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until quite golden and the smell of baking bread is very evident. A tap on loaf bottom sounds hollow. Take off baking sheet and cool on a rack. Serve accompanied with a dish of garlicky olive oil for dipping. Use day-old bread in Capellini with Olives & Crispy Crumbs (recipe on F & D website)

Makes 1 large loaf