Bread Soup

Bread is one of  my most favorite things in the world. The only two things I truly miss about Hawthorne Land are the smoked salmon and the fresh bread. No substitute found yet for the salmon, but there is lots of good bread in the Bay Area nowadays…

One of my favorites is the huge levain loaf at Model Bakery in Napa. At 4 lbs. you only need to buy half to end up with leftovers. Here is one recipe to “use up” that leftover bread. The firm crumb and crust almost turn into little dumplings in the soup!

3 T. extra virgin olive oil (decent but don’t break the bank. I use Sagra. You can find it lots of places locally)
2″ nice ripe dried cayenne, or to taste – torn into pieces
1 oz. garlic, stem end removed, sliced thin
8 oz. yellow onions, peeled, small dice
1/2 t. kosher salt
2 pints crushed tomatoes, I grow San Marzano
4 cups chicken broth
roughly 1 lb. of stale country-style bread, cut into 3/4″ cubes
1 nice branch of basil if you have it in the garden


Measure and prepare the ingredients as shown, then heat the olive oil in a suitable pot over medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the chili and stir.


If your chili is fresh, it will start to sizzle and then turn the oil orange. Add the garlic and onion along with the salt.


Continue to cook, stirring to heat evenly, until the onions have softened and become translucent.


Now add the tomato and broth, and season to taste with more salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for fifteen minutes.


Add the bread cubes, and allow to return to a simmer. Cook for an additional half hour, then remove from the heat.


Rinse the basil branch under cold water, then place into the soup and stir. Allow to sit in the soup until it cools, then remove and discard.


I usually serve my bread soup in a soup plate with a poached egg and a little Parmesan cheese sprinkled over the top!

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David Gingrass is a food and beverage operations professional with a career spanning more than three decades. His fascination with and love for food, wine and entertaining allows him to view his work as both a vocation and an avocation. Gingrass graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York then cooked in the Bay Area for two years before landing a job at Wolfgang Puck’s original Spago Restaurant in West Hollywood. There he learned to make the signature breads and sausages that he became known for at Postrio and Hawthorne Lane. He was soon promoted to kitchen manager and managed the operational and expense control aspects of Puck’s iconic restaurant for the next four years. Gingrass returned to San Francisco in 1989 when Puck tapped him and his then-wife Anne to open Postrio, Puck’s third restaurant and his first outside of Los Angeles. Postrio opened to rave reviews and soon became the #1 popular Bay Area restaurant in the prestigious Zagat survey. Five and a half years later, the opportunity to open a restaurant of his own presented itself. Hawthorne Lane opened in 1995 and was a San Francisco dining institution for over twelve years, catering to the likes of Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, Mayor Willie Brown, James Carville, President Clinton and First Lady Hilary Clinton. He closed Hawthorne Lane at the end of its fifteen-year lease in 2009 to build a consulting practice for the hospitality industry, sharing his wealth of culinary and operational experiences with new and existing restaurants, assisting them to become successful and profitable.