Tuesday, May 22, 2007

You Asked For It

On August 23rd, 2004, Andy and I celebrated his birthday by having dinner with a group of friends, including Garett and his sister Erika, who shares Andy's birth date. None of us had ever been to Eccolo, a new-ish Italian restaurant on Fourth Street in Berkeley whose kitchen, like two of every three restaurants in the Bay Area, was run by some Chez Panisse alumni. It was a long and delicious meal: the first time I ever tasted tripe (it didn't look, feel, or taste like stomach lining! Amazing!); the first time I ever tasted Barbaresco; and definitely the first time I'd ever heard of bread soup. That soup was a revelation. In fact, "I'd never had a soup so silken and concentrated", as I described it in a letter that I wrote to Gourmet magazine begging them to ask the chef to share his recipe.

I received a letter from Gourmet a few weeks later, thanking me for writing and enclosing the recipe for "Pappa al Pomodoro" on Eccolo letterhead. I made the soup -- which was of course not as delicious coming off my home stove as it had been that night, but was still good -- and that was the end of it.

Until I received this month's issue of Gourmet. There, on page 38, two and a half years after our dinner, is my letter to them asking for the soup recipe! It even has my old location information -- my dateline reads Berkeley, California. The magazine adapted the recipe somewhat from the restaurant's original to allow for the use of fresh tomatoes and some standardized measurements.

Here, for my loyal readers, is the original recipe verbatim, straight from the mouth and kitchen of Eccolo:

Pappa al Pomodoro
serves 6 to 8 people

Extra virgin olive oil
4 red onions, chopped finely
3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
2 28 oz cans San Marzano tomatoes, chopped
2 bunches fresh basil, leaves washed and picked
1 2 lb. loaf of stale rustic bread, crust removed and torn into 1-inch pieces

Heat a large soup pot over a high flame and coat the bottom with extra virgin olive oil. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the chopped onions and saute until they are soft and golden brown (about 10-15 minutes), stirring occasionally, and adding a little water if necessary to prevent burning.

When the onions are cooked through, add the garlic and tomatoes. Cook over a low flame until the tomatoes begin to sweeten and concentrate, about 25-30 minutes. Stir occasionally. Tear the basil leaves into the soup as the tomatoes are cooking. Add salt to the pot. It's important to correctly season the soup with salt at this point, because it is difficult to adjust the salt once you've added the bread.

Now add the bread to the tomatoes and cook over a low flame for about 5-10 minutes, until the bread has absorbed the tomato. If the soup seems too thick, add a little water, but this is one soup that really should hold up a wooden spoon stuck into it.

Serve the pappa warm or at room temperature, with some freshly torn basil and a liberal dousing of olive oil.


At 6:19 AM, Anonymous acechick said...

So now you can say you've been published in Gourmet!

At 10:03 AM, Blogger Ariel said...

Wow! You are so cool! And the soup sounds wonderful. Lacking in cheese, but everything without cheese is lacking, in my opinion.

At 12:17 PM, Blogger cindym said...

You're FAMOUS!!!

I am soooo impressed. I am also confused. What on earth is going on over there at Gourmet??

At 10:19 AM, Blogger Twink said...

You are seriously, seriously the coolest!


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