Best Mistake I Ever Made
However, a couple months back, I came home with garlic and onion canned diced tomatoes and went "SON OF A..." No big deal you say? Well come on! It's not what I normally use! The onions and the garlic in it will totally throw off my recipe! I had everything down to exactly what I use, and I didn't even bother to check before I yanked it off the shelf! Dang it!!! So, I stuck it in a dark corner of my pantry, hoping if I forgot about it long enough it would disappear, or better, turn into the thing I actually meant to buy.
I was feeling sort of spontaneous today, which is a rare event for me -- I mostly stick to recipes that I know and can do well. I very rarely stray from that mode of thinking. Today, however, I looked at some old bread I had on the counter and went "Now what the hell am I going to do with this?"
Those of you fans of Italians automatically raised your hands and shouted "PANZANELLA SALAD!" Oh yes, that had crossed my mind as well, and I even looked up some ideas, namely Ina Garten's Panzanella recipe. Looks good right? Definitely a potential, but I didn't have much on hand of what the recipe required.
No, instead, I started thinking in terms of croutons...but not for use in a salad. One thing I absolutely love is that crunchy bread with melted cheese you get on top of french onion soup, but I didn't have beef stock which is needed for a really robust F.O.S. I had homemade chicken stock (which I'm going to walk you through soon, I promise! I have to do another test run to make sure that I didn't just get lucky the first time around).
So, I started shuffling around my kitchen, thinking about what else I had on hand that I could use in a soup-type application that would bring about a really tasty result.
What did I find?:
french green beans
that ridiculous can of garlic, onion and diced tomatoes
and some leftover bread.
Yep, I threw it all in a pot. Well, I started out heating up my chicken stock. I think I probably had two cups worth. This recipe will make about twoish servings, depending on how hungry you are. I added the can of tomatoes, let that bubble away for a bit (it's always important to bring homemade chicken stock up to a boil and let it go for a couple minutes...just to kill off any lurking beasties). Then I cubed up my bread to nice big 1 inch cubes, tossed them in olive oil, sprinkled on some rosemary, oregano, sage, thyme (don't get huffy, this recipe will have NO MEASUREMENTS and you're just gonna have to deal!) and tossed them into a 375-400 degree oven. Keep your eyes peeled on that bread, because golden brown and delicious goes to blackened sawdust quickly. Then I added the green beans and romaine lettuce to the bubbling soup.
Yes, romaine lettuce to a soup. Yep. You heard right. When lettuces are cooked, they almost take on a cabbage-like consistency and flavor that is totally delicious. Betcha didn't know you could cook lettuce! Thanks for the tip, Jamie Oliver (can we get married now?)!
Sprinkle in some dried parsley and red pepper flake right at the end, and taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper based on what you feel it needs. Then, take a handful of croutons and sprinkle on top of the soup. If you want to be AWESOME, grate some REAL parmesan cheese (you know, the kind that says "parmigiano-reggiano" on the rind. If it ain't got it, it ain't real!) at the end and drizzle with some really nice extra virgin olive oil to finish. Bellissima!
Oh man, so good. When my creative juices aren't completely dry, I can really come up with some good stuff. The Italians have a name for this dish. Based on the research that I've done, they call it "Pappa al Pomodoro" (please correct if my research was misleading!), us Americans tend to think of it as "Tuscan Bread Soup". Whatever you call it, it's yum.
This recipe is mostly about taste. So, when you're making it, try it every once in a while as it's cooking to see how you like it. You may want less green beans, or more tomato, or more lettuce...whatever. Make it your own. I just threw it together, and I don't think I'll be able to make it as good as I did the first time, but you never know. So play around!