Ed note: This is the third entry in my Writers Eat series. I'm asking writers I admire to share their favorite recipes and/or foods here on Plums in the Icebox. The food will sometimes tie in with the writer's work, but sometimes not. If you're a writer and you're interested in participating, let me know!
This terrific recipe is via Christopher Newgent, who is one of the nicest guys on the Internet. In addition, he's the founder of Vouched Books, a tireless advocate for small-press publishing, and a great writer. He also has a brand spankin' new food blog called Put it in Your Face. You should read it because it's badass and also has great recipes. I asked Christopher to participate in Writers Eat because I know he loves food and I know he loves literature so I thought he'd be the perfect participant. And? He was!
This recipe is an adaptation of Giada DeLaurentiis' Tomato Soup with Pancetta.
I don't think I realized how often food appears in my writing until I started ploughing my brain for ideas for Writers Eat. For example, it's a burning lasagna that triggers the turn of my story "At the Fire Scene." My story "The Trifle" takes place in a diner, describes a character as having sausage fingers, and pokes fun at Canadian bacon. Hell, I just wrote an entire story based around a lady cooking potato soup after her mother passes away. It's somewhat ridiculous when I really stop to think about it, but I guess it makes perfect sense now why I'd start a food blog.
Brothy Tomato Soup
What You'll Need
1 T olive oil
4 oz pancetta, chopped
1 small onion, diced
2-3 c rustic Italian pane, cubed (3/4 inches)
6 c chicken broth
1 (28oz) can diced tomatoes with juices
1/4 c fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 t dried oregano
1/4 t dried crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 c marscapone cheese (optional)
1/4 c sour cream (optional)
What You'll Do
1) In a 6 qt. stock pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil and saute the pancetta (spell check is suggesting that I meant to type "pancreatic," which is just fucking gross; I do not cook with pancreases) until crisp and golden, about 5 minutes.
2) Add the onion and saute until tender, 3-5 minutes.
3) Add the bread and toss to coat with the pan drippings. Saute until the bread is crisp and golden, about 5 minutes. Think like a crouton. No matter how much oil you use, the bread will stick to the bottom, and that's okay. It'll deglaze when you add the broth and tomatoes.
4) Add the broth, tomatoes, basil, oregano, and crushed red pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cover and simmer until the flavors get friendly, about 10 minutes. You can go 15 minutes if you wanna see those flavors get down with the get down.
6) Ladle a serving into your favorite bowl. If you want to get really bourgie, mix the marscapone cheese and sour cream together, spoon a bit into the goodness, then put that shit in your face. If you just thought the word "dollop," take a second to smack your mouth, then put it in your face.
I had never cooked with pancetta before (I feel like I'm saying that about ingredients more and more often here on Plums in the Icebox. And that's good, right? I'm getting out of my cooking comfort zone! Thanks, Christopher!), and I really liked the flavor that it gave the soup. I chose to use just a little bit of mascarpone as garnish, and man did it melt in beautifully. My boyfriend ate three bowls, one right after the other, so that should give you a clue how damn good this was.
I modifed Christopher's recipe slightly. I threw a bay leaf into the broth before the simmering, I added garlic just after I sauteed the onions, and I subbed dried basil for fresh, mainly because I completely forgot to buy fresh basil at the grocery store. Other variables: I cooked with a fancy lemon-infused olive oil I got for Christmas, which brought a really nice citrus undertone to the recipe as a whole. A good modification might be tossing in a bit of lemon zest? Also, as I eat mainly gluten-free, I subbed Udi's Gluten-Free Multigrain bread for the pane. I think this would be great if you just poured this soup right on top of some bread in a bowl....or if you served it in a bread bowl!
Brothy Tomato Soup is perfect for cold weather which is perfect for Christopher because he lives in Indiana. I've never been there but I know it's cold. It's damn cold where I live right now, so this really hit the spot. Make it, then put it in your face. Oh and and support Vouched Books!