Thursday, January 15, 2009

Tomato and Bread Soup: Raising a Bowl to Sully

I have a theory that everyone in America has at least one friend named Sully. (Also, if you are between the ages of 27 and 34, you know 30,000 Jens.) Sully’s a genial guy. Likes beer. Probably has a big ol’ dog. Maybe he’s married and has a just-as-genial wife. (Who, for some reason, is always 4’10”.)

If you didn’t know a Sully before, you do now. You were officially introduced to him last night: Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger, a.k.a. The Guy That Landed a Presumably Doomed Plane Full of Scared People Safely in a Frozen Hudson River. Put simply, Sully is a stud. A playa. The Chairman of the Awesome. And I’m betting his retirement package just got about 1,000,000% better.

Today then, we’re dedicating Serious Eats/Jamie Oliver’s Tomato and Bread Soup (Pappa al Pomodoro) to Sully. Because a guy like that deserves a soup like this. It’s one of the best I’ve ever had the pleasure of making, and I’m not terribly crazy about tomato soup in the first place.

About it: a combination of roasted cherry tomatoes and good canned tomatoes makes a wonderful base, and a handful of basil adds a fragrant sweetness. And the bread? Ohhhhh …. the bread. Added at the very last minute, it thickens the soup beautifully, making it much more filling than it would have been otherwise. The Boyfriend had three bowls for dinner. If I wasn’t on Weight Watchers (*sigh*), I would have had four, and then eaten him for good measure.

Even better, a 1-1/2 cup serving is a mere 8 grams of fat and 204 calories. Jamie/SE’s recipe called for quite a bit more olive oil, but halving it didn’t affect the soupy goodness in the least. It lowered the price, too, which ... welll …

About that price.

Here’s the thing: the cost for this dish will vary wildly depending on the season, the brand of canned tomatoes, and whether you use a Trader Joe’s gift certificate you got for Christmas to purchase 30% of the goods. Total, everything cost me a little over $5, but it would have been closer to $8 if the cherry tomatoes weren’t free. Then again, it would have cost $6 if I bought the cherry tomatoes, but didn’t have a coupon for the canned tomatoes. Then again again, it would have been $4 if I’d bought the cherry tomatoes AND had the canned tomatoes coupon, but didn’t buy the most expensive basil in measurable history.


This is what we’re gonna do: I’m gonna list what I actually paid for it. Depending on your geographical location, the number may be waaaaay off, but I’m rolling Sully-style today.

Speaking of our beloved pilot, don’t forget to raise a glass (or a bowl) for him today. He’s done the name Sully good.

Tomato and Bread Soup (Pappa al Pomodoro)
Makes 4 servings of 1-1/2 cup each
Adapted from Serious Eats and

12 oz. cherry tomatoes, each one pricked once or twice with a toothpick
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
a large bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked, stalks finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
28 ounces canned tomatoes
2 large handfuls of stale good-quality bread, torn into chunks (about 1/3 large baguette)

1) Preheat oven to 350ºF.

2) In a medium bowl, combine cherry tomatoes, 1 clove garlic, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 5 large basil leaves. Stir. Pour on baking sheet or roasting pan. Roast 20 minutes, until tomatoes are "collapsed and slightly shrunken."

3) In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add basil stalks and other 2 cloves of garlic. Cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour in canned tomatoes (undrained), and "additional half can full of water." Jack the heat up to high. While mixture is coming to a boil, break the tomatoes up with a wooden spoon or good set of kitchen shears. Once it starts boiling, drop heat to medium-low and cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4) After 15 minutes, add bread and remaining basil, chopped. (You can leave some basil for garnish if you like.) Then, add roasted tomatoes (which should be out of the oven by now). Stir everything together, very gently, so bread won't disintegrate. If you like the consistency, serve. If not, cook a few more minutes to reduce.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
204 calories, 8 g fat, $1.26

12 oz. cherry tomatoes: 110 calories, 0 g fat, FREE (gift certificate)
3 cloves of garlic: 13 calories, 0 g fat, $0.12
Large bunch of fresh basil: 11 calories, 0.3 g fat, $2.49 (!!!!!!)
2 tablespoons olive oil: 239 calories, 27 g fat, $0.22
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper: 1 calories, 0 g fat, $0.02
28 ounces canned tomatoes: 151 calories, 0.8 g fat, $1.25
2 large handfuls of stale good-quality bread: 290 calories, 4 g fat, $0.93
TOTAL: 815 calories, 32.1 g fat, $5.03
PER SERVING (TOTAL/4): 204 calories, 8 g fat, $1.26


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