Tomato and Bread Soup – Pappa al Pomodoro

Lidia Bastianich is one of my favorite professional chefs, specializing in Italian and Italian-American cuisine; I’ve used a number of her recipes for inspiration. She’s the author of eight cookbooks, five of which are accompanied by a national series on Public Television. Her style of cooking is fresh, authentic Italian; based heavily on family traditions. In an interview, Lidia expressed her opinion on food and family:

‘Food for me was a connecting link to my grandmother, to my childhood, to my past. And what I found out is that for everybody, food is a connector to their roots, to their past in different ways. It gives you security; it gives you a profile of who you are, where you come from.’

The lovely dish I made today, Tomato and Bread Soup, is a bright summer meal; the tomatoes and basil bursting with flavor, and the bread adding a hearty texture. I made this with canned San Marzano tomatoes, but I will definitely try it later in the summer when tomatoes are at peak season. I also left the crusts on the Italian bread, as I like some of the bread to stay in small chunks. If you’d prefer the bread to completely disintegrate, remove the crusts before adding to the soup.

Tomato and Bread Soup

I adapted this recipe from ‘Lidia’s Favorite Recipes’. This is a great cookbook to start with if you don’t have one of her cookbooks and want to try some wonderful Italian dishes.

3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely diced Vidalia onion
6 cloves of garlic, smashed
Three 28-oz cans of San Marzano tomatoes
2 cups vegetable broth
Five 1/2 inch thick slices of stale Italian bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
10 fresh basil leaves, washed
Freshly grated Parmigiana-Reggiano

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a deep, heavy pot. Add the diced onion and cook until it starts to wilt, approximately 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until golden, about 6 minutes. Crush the tomatoes with your hands in a large bowl, or with a food mill. If you’re crushing with your hands, be careful – some of them burst with juice when crushed.

Add the tomatoes and their juices to the pot. Add the vegetable broth and bring everything to a boil, stirring occasionally. When the tomatoes have boiled for 10 minutes, season with salt and pepper. Add the bread and basil leaves to the pot and bring it back to a boil. Drop the heat so the soup is still simmering, low to medium-low. Simmer uncovered, whisking occasionally to break up the pieces of bread. The soup will be silky and dense after about 40 minutes.

Season the soup to taste with additional salt and pepper if needed. Serve in warm bowls, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil. Provide grated parmigiana-reggiano on the side. Enjoy!

Makes about 2 quarts; serves 8.

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Shrimp Tacos with a Citrus Twist

My favorite fish market, Clean Catch, had some amazing tiger shrimp in the case yesterday, so I picked up a pound (eight shrimp in this instance) and decided to try a different take on shrimp tacos. While a peppery, smoky spice shines in tacos, citrus also works very well. I use orange, lemon, and lime in this version; and a sour cream sauce with more of a kick. Also added some honey in the marinade for a slight kiss of sweet.

I did these in a skillet on medium-high heat, but the shrimp are definitely great for grilling. Unfortunately it’s raining tonight in Charlotte so grilling was out for me. 🙂

Spicy Citrus Shrimp Tacos

Spicy Citrus Shrimp Tacos
Juice of one orange
Juice of one lemon
Juice of one lime
2 Tbsp chipotle-fused olive oil
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chipotle chili powder
1 tsp chili powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
Freshly ground salt and pepper
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined

Southwestern Cream Sauce
1/2 cup light sour cream (or fat-free greek yogurt)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp salt
Juice of 1 lime
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

4 flour or corn tortillas
Shredded lettuce
Shredded Mexican cheese
Salsa or Pico de Gallo
Guacamole
Cilantro and quartered limes for garnish

Whisk together the orange, lemon and lime juices, olive oil, honey, spices and garlic for the marinade. Toss the shrimp in the marinade to coat, cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, but not more than 30. Any longer than 30 and the shrimp will start to ‘cook’ in the acid of the citrus juices.

Waiting for the shrimp to marinade, whisk together all the ingredients for the southwest cream sauce and refrigerate until ready to serve.

If grilling, thread the shrimp onto skewers, and grill 1-3 minutes per side, until opaque and cooked through. Use the grill to heat the tortillas as well. If cooking indoors, cook the shrimp in a skillet on medium-high heat for 1-3 minutes per side; warm the tortillas in the microwave.

Sprinkle shredded lettuce and cheese on the tortillas and divide the shrimp among the tortillas. Drizzle the cream sauce over the shrimp and garnish with cilantro and lime wedges. Serve guacamole and salsa/pico on the side. Serves 2 (2 tacos each). Enjoy!

Spicy Citrus Tacos and Beer