I keep meaning to ask the M*ster what she put in her delicious Zuppa Il Poppa soup she made for the H and I years ago. She explained that she got the recipe when she was studying in Italy and that the name means "Pope's Soup". Her version was a deep red color and had a thick, hearty consistency.
Since then I have been looking in Italian cookbooks for it. I tried a version (from Italianissimo, McRae Books) last year that called for soaking the bread and it produced a glutenous, pink glop. I used burnt sourdough bread and anemic, out of season tomatoes. Maybe those tomatoes were the problem. I was also too lazy to deseed and peel the tomatoes
This time I made a version from Zuppa, Risotto, Polenta! Also from McRae books. I had two bags of ripe heirlooms from our farm box that were begging to be eaten. Last year I missed tomato season because of morning sickness and I have been waiting all year for them to return. I also went to the trouble of actually peeling and deseeding the tomatoes-- which was messy, but judging by the results well worth it. I had a handful of sorry shitakes I bought at the white people grocery store for an obscene amount of money and a few slices of dark rye bread I made the day before.
Preheat oven to 325. Cube a couple slices of bread. Spread on baking sheet and put in oven for at least 10 minutes. Or more. They should be very dry, but not toasted.
Meanwhile, boil a pot of water, and set up a bowl of ice water. The recipe called for 8 oz of bread and a mere 14 oz of tomatoes. I weighed out the specified amount of bread and used nearly 2 lbs of tomatoes. Tomatoes are mostly liquid and 14 oz is hardly anything. I wanted a tomato orgy, a tomato glut. Plunge the tomatoes in the boiling water for ten seconds, then the ice water. The peels will come off easily. Cut out the stem part, cut in half and squeeze out the seeds. Save the liquid. The recipe calls for water later and it seemed a pity to get rid of all that tomatoey goodness. Use a strainer. Dice the tomato meat.
Pour about a quarter cup of olive oil into your soup pot. Heat it to the not quite smoking point. Add garlic and bay leaves and shitakes. Stir. When the croutons are done, add them. Let this mixture bubble a while. Now the bread can get brown. Do some dishes. Clean up the tomato mess. Add your seasonings. Finally, add the tomato meat, liquid and enough water to give it the consistency you want. Let it simmer just long enough to heat through and combine, but not so long the bread breaks down.
Garnish with a slice of blue cheese.
Next time I'd replace the water with wine or stock. I probably could have saved a lot of time by just using a food mill on the tomatoes.