Wednesday, March 24, 2010

One Pot, Five Minutes

I know that it looks like we eat a lot of meat around here, but it's misleading. Very often I just make pasta or some sort of curried vegetable thing or some variation on rice and beans. But they're not very innovative and/or photogenic, or they're something that I've covered before, so I don't write about them. The next few weeks are going to be pretty hectic, so it's likely that posts will be on the thinner side. I've got some good pictures saved up to help fill in the gaps, so maybe it will work out.

But I wanted to put in a few non-meatcentric things to more accurately reflect the way we really eat. First up, something I mentioned last week in the bread post: pappa al pomodoro. Tuscan bread soup. This is the very essence of peasant cooking, in that it actually requires a heel of stale bread to work properly. We had such a heel, actually of the loaf in the picture in that post, slowly fossilizing on the counter. And half a jar of tomato purée (an aside here–we don't buy canned tomatoes anymore, just the ones in jars; read Eve's post for more info). And that's all you need, besides the usual. Barely brown some garlic, add bread, let toast a bit, add tomatoes, herbs, salt, and let it marry for a few minutes. Serve topped with unfiltered olive oil and minced parsley or basil. I used oil, Espelette pepper and wild garlic chives. The reason that the bread should be hard–I used our big Chinese cleaver to take it apart–is that it gives it the integrity to not go all squishy as soon as the tomatoes hit the pot. After about five minutes of simmering, these roughly 1" cubes of bread had a lovely textural gradient from pudding-soft on the outside to dense and chewy in the center. And it goes without saying that good homemade multi-grain sourdough makes for a superior result.

Obviously in tomato season this would be better, or with home-canned tomatoes, but it can approach profundity just like this, especially on a cold, rainy day that's waving a daunting to do list in your face. (I had this for breakfast, but it's even better for lunch).

I ordered this last time I was in Florence, and they served it puréed into a brick-colored gruel, like gazpacho's dimwitted Italian cousin. It was very disappointing. Leave it chunky.


Zoomie said...

Thanks for the link to the tomato caution as well as what looks like a most interesting way to use up the herb slab that is like a rock in my kitchen right now.

The Spiteful Chef said...

Mother of ASS. I'm so tired of having to try and figure out how to protect myself from everything in the grocery store. Can't they just stop trying to poison me every time I open my mouth?

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

It's funny - I just had a post about Florence and Florentine food this morning - we got back recently.

Oh, and I'm back - have taken a long absence from blogging/reading while I got some ducks in a row.

Pappa di Pomodoro can be sublime or horrid. I love it, done well, though.

And I agree - it's great for any meal!

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Wow that's a chunky pappa al pomodoro! I made one last summer that came from a recipe from Sting's private chef in his Tuscany retreat. I remember it as unremarkable - and that was during tomato season. Could have been another gazpacho. Definitely need to rethink texture!

peter said...

Zoomie: That, or croutons. We make a lot of them, too.

Kristie: Maybe if you weren't such a terrible person they'd stop trying to kill you.

Jen: Welcome back! I was wondering what you were up to. So sorry to hear it was a trip to Florence.

SdOC: It makes me smile to think of Sting eating bland, mediocre soup in his Tuscan retreat. Part of the problem might be pane toscano, which is made without salt, and thus sucks.

mise said...

I effusively love your dinner, Peter!

peter said...

Thanks! It's nice of you to come over and say so.