Our first new recipe for the June Cookbook Challenge was a brand new recipe from an old favorite cookbook – a spicy tomato soup from the book From the Earth to the Table. After one meal, this soup quickly vaulted itself into new favorite status in the Capital Spice house. From the glistening egg to the Food 016rustic bread to the spinach and tomato broth,  this is a waving tri-color flag of Italy all glowing white, red and green. It promises nutrition, comfort, and a hearty depth just when I lean over and inhale its scent. This is a healthy soup and a workman’s soup. I can imagine generations of Italian laborers coming home from a day of working with their hands and tucking into this soup for a filling meal.

The very act of eating this soup transforms it in the bowl and it all begins with the egg. Once my spoon pierces the egg, everything transforms to something both different and better. The golden yolk softens the bread as it slides into the broth, transforming the tomato-based broth from a shimmering red to a creamy, sparkling broth that delivers twice the richness without any heavy cream. The heat of the broth and poached egg has wilted the spinach so all key ingredients – the egg, broth, spinach and bread – can be easily spooned into a single, complex bite.

Recipe and more details after the jump.

Food 023One of the things I love about this soup is its complexity. Each layer and color brings an added level of flavor. The tomato and chicken broth is robust and bright, benefitting first from the sauteed onions the tomatoes joined in the pan and later by the egg yolk. The sliced bread is brushed with a combination of olive oil, garlic, and paprika making bites of it dense and smoky. As the spinach wilted slightly in the heat it still provided a kick of crunch — a new texture to surprise my tongue. 

We used a recipe from John Ash’s From the Earth to the Table, a wine country cookbook we picked up a few years ago during a trip to Temecula, California. Ash focuses on making the most of seasonal, natural ingredients and this book is heavily used in our kitchen from late spring to the final edge of autumn. Like almost every seasonal cooking book, the author is based in California so pickings for midwinter meals can be frustratingly slim. Still, Ash more thank makes up for it with phenomenal, easy recipes like this.  I wish someone had gifted this book to me back in my just-out-of-college days so I could have learned how easy it is to make a simple, healthy, delicious meal at home – no fancy utensils or formal training necessary. 

Spicy Tomato and Garlic Stew With Eggs  and Croutes

Heat olive oil in a deep sauce pan (we ended up transferring ours to a stockpot – there is a lot of liquid in this recipe) and saute one diced white onion until it is golden and soft but not brown. Add 6 cups of clear chicken stock or veggie stock and one can of drained, diced tomatoes. Add 2 tables spoons of chile-garlic sauce (we used sambal oelek, which was left over from our homemade tom yum soup). Mix together, bring to a simmer and let the broth heat through. 

Moving on to the croutes…Preheat the oven to 350. Grab a baguette, preferably something that is already crusty and maybe about to go stale. Cut the bread into half-inch slices.  In a small bowl, combine 3 TB of olive oil, 1 ts diced garlic, 1 ts sweet or smoked paprika. Brush the mixture onto the bread slices and put them on cooking sheet. Put these in the oven until they are nearly crips – maybe 5 or 6 minutes.

Once your croutes are ready and your broth is warm and simmering, place a handful of torn spinach at the bottom of the bowl. Ladle the broth around the spinach. Top with a croute (or two) and a poached egg. (A nice how-to to poaching an egg is available here). Stir the egg into the soup and enjoy!