Tomato soup: an ode to healthy comfort food
Summer calls for fresh foods, easy preparations and simplicity. I do realise that we are still in spring, but the weather in Venice is so hot and humid that most people have already switched to a raw diet consisting mainly of salads, fresh cheese like ricotta or mozzarella and fruit. The same is true for me, especially this week that I'm home alone and I don't really see the point in spending a lot of time in front of the stove to dine all by myself. My routine hasn't really changed, I wake up early as usual, go for my morning run and prepare something quick and easy before going to work, so in the afternoon I can stay outdoors and see my friends without worrying too much about shopping and cooking. Prima il dovere, poi il piacere (Duty first, then pleasure) we say in Italy and I suppose I have engrained this concept deeply...
Yesterday I made a delicious tomato soup that I ate cold in the evening, and I thought it was so good I just had to share the recipe. The main ingredients are 3: fresh cherry tomatoes, friselle (which you can always replace with stale bread) and basil. If you want to make it extremely tasty, include garlic, chilli and homemade stock. In case you don't have stock, just use water (tomatoes release their own water anyway, so... don't worry about it!).
I've already talked about friselle (a twice-baked bread typical from Southern Italy) and how to choose and preserve tomatoes in another post, so I will just limit myself to reminding you to opt for smaller size tomatoes with a dark red colour. The smaller and the darker, the more nutrient! With regard to the soup, it's the first time I make it like this. Usually I put in a pot some chopped red onion, half yellow bell pepper and some tomatoes and bring to a boil, add salt and let cook for about 20/30 minutes, adding 2 strawberries at the end to add a bit of sweetness and blend everything. But the other day I saw an old tv show and decided to try a new version.
This tomato soup, in fact, is more like a revisited version of the Spanish gazpacho. I wish I could tell you I tried it in a fancy restaurant on a cost of Andalusia, but the truth is that the inspiration arrived while I was sitting on my old and not so comfy couch at home while watching Jamie does Aldalucia... he was at a lady's house and when he made the dish he showed how they add bread, blend everything together and drink it from a glass! In Tuscany they do something similar called pappa al pomodoro, a must have food! Anyway, I really like Jamie, even if I do consider his cooking a bit too rough and wild, I just love the way this guy speaks to normal people, with normal lives and normal budgets! I've seen way too many recipes and cookbooks with endless lists of exotic (and often very expensive) ingredients, probably delicious, it's just that personally I don't live that way, so I tend to admire the pictures and then do my own stuff. While his recipes are quite easy and, anyway, I also appreciate how he tried, through his Food Revolution show and campaign, to get schools in the UK to serve healthier meals. I have to confess that in Italy we have the same problem... often the management of school food halls is given to private companies which, in order to keep the budget low, choose ingredients that have an arguable quality. I don't have kids, but I have attended some extremely heated discussions between parents with different views on this topic and was a bit shocked. I don't have the knowledge of a trained nutritionist, thus I cannot express an opinion, but what I feel like saying is that food should be something pleasurable and that the key ingredient of the traditional Mediterranean cuisine (which is not the one we are used to since the 1950s...) is CONVIVIALITY, which is something that cannot be bought at the market but must be created at the table. Fortunately, children do this spontaneously, so my hope is that their parents will find peace too!
Anyway, going back to the recipe, my tomato soup is really easy to make and I enjoy it both warm and cold. As already mentioned, I ate it straight from the fridge adding some chopped dried chilli and a few drops of unfiltered olive oil and thought that the cold enhanced even more the perfume of the basil. I absolutely loved it and hope you will enjoy it too! Let me know what you think and, in case you make any changes, I would be happy to learn about them to get more inspiration! Remember, sharing is caring! So, buon appetito and talk to you soon!
FRESH & SPICY TOMATO SOUP FOR SUMMER
Prep. Time: 10'
Cook Time: 40'
Yield: Serves 2
500 gr/ 17 oz cherry tomatoes
1 frisella/stale bread
2 cloves of garlic
1 small dried chilli pepper
basil leaves to garnish
extra virgin olive oil
1) Wash the tomatoes and slice them in half. Heat a pan, add a few drops of olive oil, 2 crushed cloves of garlic , a pinch of salt and 2 basil leaves. When the oil starts popping add the tomatoes. Stir well, lower the heat, remove garlic and let simmer for about 30 minutes, adding liquid in case the pan gets dry (in theory this should not happen because the tomatoes will release their own water).
2) In the meantime, take your frisella or stale bread and tear into pieces. Let soak in a bowl with water and oil for 10 minutes.
3) When the tomatoes are ready, move them into a food processor, add half a cup (more if you prefer a more soupy dish) of veg stock, the soaked frisella/stale bread and blend roughly.
4) Let cool and serve fresh garnishing with extra basil leaves and some chopped dried chilli.