Every morning over the holiday break, I’d wake up and reach for the phone to check the temperature. We started our Berkshires break at a rather reasonable 21, but by Tuesday, it was edging perilously close to single digits. By Wednesday, we hit zero, on Thursday, four below and, finally, on Saturday, we kicked down all the way down to negative seven. After checking the weather, I’d move on to Instagram Stories where, as reliable as clockwork, Danielle, the early bird who had already been up for a good hour, would post the temperature in her village. Monterey is only about ten miles northeast of us, but she always won. Or lost, if you hate the cold. On Saturday, she posted: Minus NINE.
These numbers didn’t stop us from heading out every day for a hike, which Remy adored even as she shivered in the snow, constantly stopping to bite the frozen ice marbles that had burrowed into her poor paws. We’d return to the house, grab a coffee or bowl of soup and plop down in front of our chic Piazzetti pellet stove—until its warming flame tragically decided to conk out on Friday. Viva, Italia.
The following morning, the hot water in the tub turned ice cold after about five minutes of running. Grazie, hot water heater (even though you’re not Italian). By Tuesday morning, we were more than ready to head back to the city, which greeted us with a balmy 36. And that was when I hibernated.
I’d chalk it up to a reluctance about breaking the luxuriously long holiday bubble, and, being freelance, I fortunately did not have to. I kind of love hibernation, despite it probably not being very healthy, emotionally. So, after two days of enclosure, cabin fever set in right around the time that the snow began to fall. And that was when I headed out. I grocery shopped, got my gray covered, took Remy to the dog run where she freaked out little dogs with 360 jumps, and picked up a pot roast at the butcher. We let it cook for four hours in the bone broth I had made the week prior, then settled in with the Agnelli documentary, returning to the kitchen for seconds and thirds. As warming as the roast was, this weekend will be all soup, all the time.
First up, Tuscan tomato and bread soup. Adam Sachs’ Instagram story (aka @sachsmo) about unearthing parmesan rinds (left) reminded me that we, too, have some rinds of our own tucked away. They’re the best secret weapon to many a soup, especially of the tomato and bread variety.
There is no deep message to this post, except to say that I’m declaring January soup month. Unorthodox, I know. Up next: Chicken ginger soup (I think), whose process I plan on Instagram Storying the shit out of, if for no other reason than I want to copy Sachs’ red-background Supreme-esque messages (as well as his glib humor).
If I try hard enough, maybe some of his kitchen skills will rub off on me, too.
Tuscan Tomato and Bread Soup
- 2 T olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 6 sprigs of fresh basil, divided
- 1 16.oz can of diced tomatoes
- 1 or 2 parmesan rinds
- 8 cups chicken broth
- 1/4 cup heavy cream or Half & Half
- 1 loaf of ciabatta or baguette, roughly torn
- fresh mozzarella for garnish
Preheat oven to 300. Over medium heat, cook olive oil in large Dutch oven. Add onion and stir for 5-8 minutes, until softened and translucent. Add three sprigs of basil and stir a few more minutes. Add tomatoes and stir for another minute or so, then add broth and parmesan rind. Stir well, then lower heat and let simmer for 20 minutes. Let the soup cool a bit, then smooth all or most of the soup (depending on whether you like a bit of texture in your bites) in a Vitamin on Low setting. Pour soup back into Dutch oven, then stir in cream, and simmer for 20 more minutes. Meanwhile, place torn bread pieces on baking sheet and toast in oven for 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven when bread has taken on a lightly toasted appearance. Remove basil sprigs from soup. Before serving, grate mozzarella over soup and garnish with a few fresh, chopped basil leaves.