So, word is out on my new project, Sunday Best Dishes, and my heart is full. I couldn’t be more thankful for the loyal friends who are testing the recipes inspired by those Sunday inspirations we all, whether we realize it or not, bring home to our kitchens. The muse I’m talking about struck me in an Italian restaurant, on a recent cold night. I came up with an idea for what to serve the night your Christmas tree goes up. It’s tradition in our home to invite friends and family over for some gnoshing and decorating on the heels of Thanksgiving, and I wanted to change things up a bit from standing rib roast and creamed spinach.
So here’s how the idea hit. I won’t say which restaurant, since you’ll probably guess once I describe it. Carefully plated entrees and desserts were lined up in a glass display case. Big vases of calla lilies were everywhere, and cans of San Marzano tomatoes lined the shelves. Those tomatoes always excite me; they’re the highest quality canned product out there. Suddenly my imagination was bubbling like a big pot of tomato gravy. Once we were seated, I began to take notes. Okay, I didn’t really take notes, though I could have under the soft glow of white lights strung over the tables. A packet of crayons and a kids’ menu sat beside a giant carafe of red wine—a look that’s both elegant and incongruent, especially on a paper tablecloth. I wanted to pick up a fire-red crayon and write “Pappa Al Pomodoro” right there on the butcher paper.My Sunday Best Pappa Al Pomodoro, which translates to “Tomato Soup with Bread” contains the highest quality plum tomatoes, olive oil, dry red wine and chicken stock one might use for this dish. I’d also like to point out that this recipe is a golden opportunity to use fennel, one of my all-time favorite ingredients. Fennel is in its natural season from late fall through early spring. You’ll want to pick up a fresh batch from your farmers market while the getting is good, before it bitters up in rising temperatures. You can store fresh fennel in a Ziploc bag for up to 10 days in your fridge, and use it in comforting chicken slow-cooker dishes all winter long.
But of course, one can’t have a savory soup without a savory bread to go with it—now of course I realize there are big chucks of ciabatta cubes already in the soup, but this is Christmas decorating night, and we can never be too much in the way of carbs! That’s why I’m pulling one off the menu from an old Tree Trimming Party: Herbed Parmesan Popovers. They resemble a Yorkshire pudding so they’re perfect for this time of year. Piercing them with a fork when they’re straight out of the oven is a great idea if you’re cold; a pillar of steam will warm those cheeks right up! Feel free to dip a popover into your soup, and get back to your decorating after just one bowl. No lollygagging about when there’s work to be done!
Soup’s On, And So is my Book Launch and Sunday Best Recipe Contest!If you have a delicious dish, worthy of Sunday night dinner, I’d love to hear about it. I am now accepting submissions through March 30th of your Sunday Best dish; just email the recipe to firstname.lastname@example.org. On Easter Sunday, 2013, I’ll announce the winner and send a grand prize of my newly launched book, plus a goody basket filled with high quality pantry staples. Bon Appetite, holiday gnoshers!