Let's say I bit off a bit more than I could chew. Move on Sunday, cook that same night already, are you kidding me? What can I tell you: I was in a moving-addled state of mind. It took me three more days just to move the contents of my kitchen, and a few more days from that point on to unpack everything and then get to cooking. So forgive me for my long silence and let's move on. After all, it's a whole new day! And there's tomato-bread soup to be discussed.
(For those of you who care about these things, I decided to stay in Queens, in Forest Hills, to be exact, and simply moved from one side of a parking lot to another. My apartment is a studio now, but it has tons of windows and light, far more closet space than should be legal in New York City, and a pretty swank little kitchen, if I do say so myself. The counter space is still rather piddling, but the stove was manufactured sometime in the last 10 years, which is a step up from the last place, and there's no fear anymore that I'll singe my knuckle hairs off every time I try to boil a pot of water, so that's good.)
The first thing I cooked in the new place was a poached chicken breast, well, three, actually, to shred into a big salad that I made for my neighbors the night before they, too, moved out of our apartment building. (Only instead of moving one block away, which would have been the right thing to do, they had the nerve to buy a house in the boonies and move out to Long Island. I might never forgive them.) But, as triumphant as I felt watching the little bubbles squiggle skyward in the poaching liquid, cukes and avocado diced just so in the salad bowl, it was hardly blog-worthy stuff. You, so full of patience while I left you here with the archives, deserved something a little more exciting, wouldn't you say?
Florence Fabricant, ever trustworthy, provided me with just the thing: a tomato-bread soup by way of Catalunya, chockful of most of my favorite things. Peasant bread and fresh tomatoes? Check. Smoked paprika and saffron? Check. Cubes of chorizo and minced parsley? Well, hello, lover.
Normally, I think I'd be too lazy to enjoy the process of making this soup. There's an awful lot of dealing required for the tomatoes and there's quite a bit of dicing, cubing, slivering, mincing of the other things to be done, not to mention the use of a food processor. But after so many weeks out of the kitchen, it was nothing but a relief to be back in my apron, standing at the counter, working quietly, my mind at ease. I highly recommend cooking this soup during the day, preferably on a weekend when midday is quiet anyway, and you can imagine what it's like to be in Spain on a hot summer's day, people asleep during high noon, you the solitary cook, at home in the kitchen. Ooh, that's bliss, all right.
And the soup is none too shabby either. It's thick and sweet-spicy (I used chorizo picante), the bread gone custardy, the saffron, smoked paprika, and pork fat combining to delectably rough-around-the-edges effect. This is a lusty soup if I ever saw one, and when cooled to room temperature, remarkably palatable on a summer's day. And such a welcome return to cooking.
(In other news, the one thing, the one thing I can't seem to find since the move is my bag of Aleppo pepper. Random bags of votive candles, every mix CD I ever was given, even my replacement pack of dryer sheets made it. But the Aleppo pepper is gone. What the what? And, second of all, I saw Julie & Julia and...frankly, found both story lines a little snooze-worthy. Maybe because I liked actually reading Julia's book and Julie's blog instead of watching the movie version(s)? (Though Meryl is, as usual, so good.) I don't know. What I do know is that the internet venom aimed at Julie Powell these days is mystifying and getting old, awfully fast. Third of all...what was I going to say? Oh, right! My camera. Nikon repaired it and the lens and sent both back, beautifully wrapped, only for me to find that although they did manage to fix the lens, the camera body is still busted. Still. Busted. Despite. The. Repair. Slip. Nikon. Included. When. They. Sent. It. Back. Nice, right? So, my beloved is winging its way back to Nikon, probably as we speak, and if you could all put a little prayer in for its speedy recovery and return, I'd be grateful to you, oh, for eternity. That's all.)
Thick Tomato-Bread Soup, Catalan-Style
Serves 2 to 3
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, slivered
4 ounces chorizo (casings removed), cubed
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
3 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled
Generous pinch saffron threads
2 cups crustless country bread, finely diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
1. Heat oil in a large sauté pan. Add garlic and cook over low heat till soft. Add chorizo, raise heat and cook until starting to brown. Stir in paprika. Remove from heat.
2. Place a sieve over the pan, halve tomatoes horizontally and hold cut side down over sieve as you gently squeeze to remove seeds and allow juice to fall into pan. Remove sieve. Reserve tomato pulp. Heat juice in pan until warm, add saffron and set aside off heat 10 minutes.
3. Finely chop tomato pulp by hand or in food processor. Add to pan. Bring to a simmer. Stir in bread. Cook, stirring, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to stand, off heat, stirring from time to time, until room temperature, about 30 minutes. Fold in parsley and serve.