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!