Mario Batali’s Chilled Tomato and Bread Soup

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This recipe is ideal for when it is brutally hot and you just don’t feel like cooking. It is so easy: just puree canned (or fresh) tomatoes with day-old bread, salt, pepper and fresh basil. Swirl in a little olive oil, lemon juice, red pepper flakes and scallions and you are done. The complex taste belies the simplicity of the preparation–no one will know you didn’t slave over this.

Don’t expect this to be like gazpacho, which I find to be too spicy and raw onion-ey. This is subtle and mild. The fresh basil absolutely makes this dish, so don’t leave it out.

Mario Batali’s Chilled Tomato and Bread Soup
I changed a few things with the original recipe. The original recipe calls for simmering the tomatoes for 10-15 minutes to reduce the liquid a bit. I didn’t bother. I cut down the recipe to serve four instead of eight. The recipe also called for floating a slice of toast on top and drizzling over the lemon juice/olive oil mixture. Instead I mixed a little of the lemon juice/olive oil mixture into the soup, drizzled the rest on top and garnished with sliced heirloom grape tomatoes. Other things I left out: 1 Tbl. fresh thyme leaves and zest of 1 lemon.

28-ounce can whole San Marzano Tomatoes
1 1/2 cups torn-up day-old Italian or Country Bread (I used about 3 ounces of dried cubes of sourdough)
1/4 cup fresh Basil Leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 Tbl. olive oil (use a good extra-virgin olive oil)
juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I used more like ΒΌ tsp.)
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup of grape tomatoes, halved, preferably heirloom mix

Note: If the bread cubes are very hard, let them soak in the canned tomatoes to soften them before attempting to puree them. Place your hand down on the cover when processing to prevent the cover from lifting up and causing splattering. When I made this, the processor blade aggressively flung the hard bread cubes all around the food processor bowl, lifting up the lid enough to send tomato juice all over my kitchen, splattering every surface. Horrible! Don’t let this happen to you.

In a food processor, puree the tomatoes, bread, basil, and plenty of salt and pepper. Season aggressively because chilling the soup will dull the flavor. Chill the soup for at least 1 hour.

In a bowl, stir together the olive oil, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, and scallions. Season lightly with salt.

Add a little of the oil/lemon/scallion mixture to the chilled soup. Set aside the rest of the oil/lemon/scallion mixture for garnishing each serving.

Divide the chilled tomato soup among four bowls. Place sliced grape tomatoes in the center of each bowl. Drizzle the scallion mixture on top of each bowl, and serve.

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