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Pappa al Pomodoro (Version 2.0)

Pappa al pomodoro literally translates to bread and tomato. Here, Incanto chef Chris Cosentino turns the classic Italian thick soup into a more refined plate by making a crispy French toast-style dish. He sears tomato-soaked bread until it caramelizes on the outside but is still soft on the inside and then tops it with a fresh tomato salad.

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices coarse country bread or baguette slices, each 1 inch thick
  • 8 very ripe red heirloom tomatoes, about 2 lb. total, cut into chunks
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground pepper

For the Zinfandel vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup Zinfandel vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup pure olive oil
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

For the cherry tomato salad:

  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, in assorted colors, large ones cut in half
  • 1/4 cup mixed fresh opal and Genovese basil leaves, torn
  • 1/4 cup julienned red onion
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

If you have a gas oven, the night before you plan to serve the dish, arrange the bread slices on a rimmed baking sheet, place in the oven and leave there overnight. The bread will dry from the heat of the pilot light. (Alternatively, toast the bread in a toaster oven. Let the bread slices cool and then let stand overnight at room temperature until completely dried out.) This step is important or the bread will fall apart during cooking.

In a blender or food processor, combine the tomatoes, garlic, basil, salt and pepper and process until smooth. Transfer the puree to a glass or ceramic baking dish, submerge the bread slices in the tomato mixture and let stand for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the Zinfandel vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice and pure olive oil until emulsified and then whisk in the extra-virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. This recipe makes 3/4 cup vinaigrette. You will need 1 Tbs. for the salad; refrigerate the rest for another use.

To make the cherry tomato salad, in a bowl, combine the cherry tomatoes, basil and onion, and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with the 1 Tbs. vinaigrette and toss to coat evenly.

In a large nonstick sauté pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. When the oil is hot, remove the bread slices from the puree and add to the pan. Cook until nicely seared on the underside, about 3 minutes. Flip the slices and cook on the other side until nicely seared and hot throughout, about 3 minutes more.

Transfer the seared bread to a warmed platter or divide among individual plates. Arrange the tomato salad on top of the bread slices and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Beginnings, by Chris Cosentino (Olive Press, 2012).