Pappa Al Pomodoro

January 7, 2012

Margaux says…

Happy birthday, Desi! My son is 3 today, and it reminded me of this soup, which I made for his birthday party last year. This year we’re skipping a meal with the party, but I made the soup this week anyway because it was on my mind, and it is SO GOOD!!! This has got to be at least in my top 5 favorite soups, if not number 1. I saw Ina make it on Barefoot Contessa last fall, and have made it SEVERAL times since. It was in the same “bread” episode that I got this recipe, which is also pretty wonderful. Anyway, back to the soup…for one thing, it has fennel in it, which is fast becoming one of my favorite ingredients. If you haven’t tried fennel yet, you must…it adds so much flavor to things! The other awesome thing about this soup is the topping–you have to make that part, because it’s divine. If you’re making the soup vegetarian, it’s no problem, the topping will be just as good without the pancetta (although you may need to add a smidge of olive oil to make up for the lack of grease).

If you’ve never used fennel before, you chop it like you would an onion. First, you need to remove the stalks completely, then cut the bottom off, and then slice it lengthwise. Remove the outer layer, and cut out the core at the bottom. Then lay one half cut-side down on a chopping board, and slice lengthwise into 1/4″ slices. Then slice again crosswise, in about 1/4″ slices. Super easy.

If you have leftover croutons after the soup’s all been eaten up, they also taste great on salads (including the pancetta)!

Make this vegetarian by replacing the chicken broth with water, and eliminating the pancetta. Make it vegan by eliminating the parmesan, which I actually did last time I made it and it was just as delicious! I found that one large loaf of ciabatta will work for both the soup and the topping. I don’t remove all the crusts from the bread that I put in the soup, just the toughest bottom part (I have a hard time wasting all that bread!).

Pappa Al Pomodoro

from Barefoot Contessa

1/2 cup good olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onion (2 onions)
1 cup medium-diced carrots, unpeeled (3 carrots)
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and medium-diced (1 1/2 cups)
4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
3 cups (1-inch) diced ciabatta cubes, crusts removed
2 (28-ounce) cans good Italian plum tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade (water for vegetarian)
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (eliminate for vegan)

For the topping:
3 cups (1-inch) diced ciabatta cubes
2 ounces thickly sliced pancetta, chopped (eliminate for vegetarian)
24 to 30 whole fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons good olive oil, plus more for serving
Salt and pepper

Directions
Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, fennel, and garlic and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until tender. Add the ciabatta cubes and cook for 5 more minutes. Place the tomatoes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process just until coarsely chopped. Add the tomatoes to the pot along with the chicken stock, red wine, basil, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, and allow to simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

For the topping, place the ciabatta cubes, pancetta, and basil on a sheet pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss well. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes, until all the ingredients are crisp. The basil leaves will turn dark and crisp, which is perfectly fine.

Reheat the soup, if necessary, beat with a wire whisk until the bread is broken up. Stir in the Parmesan and taste for seasoning. Serve hot sprinkled with the topping and drizzled with additional olive oil.

Greek Panzanella Salad

March 5, 2011

Margaux says…

I’ve made this salad a few times in the past month or so, in order to combat these winter blues (salads always give me hope of spring!).  I saw it on an episode of Barefoot Contessa, and decided to make it for my mom when we went home one weekend, because it sounded like something she would love.  It was very simple to make, and it was a hit!  I’ve made it a couple more times since then, once as the main course for just my husband, son and me, and once as a side dish for company.

Greek Panzanella
from a Barefoot Contessa episode, by Ina Garten

Ingredients

* Good olive oil
* 1 small French bread or boule, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
* Kosher salt
* 1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/4-inch thick
* 1 red bell pepper, large diced
* 1 yellow bell pepper, large diced
* 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
* 1/2 red onion, sliced in half rounds
* 1/2 pound feta cheese, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
* 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted

For the vinaigrette:

* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 teaspoon dried oregano
* 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
* 1/4 cup good red wine vinegar
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 1/2 cup good olive oil

Directions

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread cubes and sprinkle with salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 5 to 10 minutes, until nicely browned. Add more olive oil as needed.

Place the cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, tomatoes and red onion in a large bowl.

For the vinaigrette, whisk together the garlic, oregano, mustard, vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt and the pepper in a small bowl. While still whisking, add the olive oil and make an emulsion. Pour the vinaigrette over the vegetables. Add the feta, olives and bread cubes and mix together lightly. Set aside for 30 minutes for the flavors to blend. Serve at room temperature.