Country Bread and Tomato Soup with Mashed Basil Oil
½ cup fresh basil leaves, packed
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper, to taste
3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2, 28-oz cans whole, peeled tomatoes (organic plum or San Marzano) or 12 ripe Roma tomatoes, peeled
1 quart water or vegetable stock
¼ cup dry red wine
1 Panera Bread Country Loaf, torn into bite-size pieces
• WITH A MORTAR AND PESTLE, mash the basil well with ½ cup of the oil and season with salt and pepper. If you do not have a mortar and pestle, this step can be done in a food processor.
• To preserve the rustic taste and appearance of this infused oil, take care to pulse the ingredients very gently. Set the mashed basil oil aside.
• In an 8-quart stockpot, heat the remaining ¼ cup oil over medium-low heat. Cook the garlic, pepper flakes, and oregano just until the garlic begins to sizzle.
• Crush the tomatoes with your hands over the stockpot, including all the juices that come from the tomatoes.
• Add the water or stock and red wine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
• Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.
• Stir in the bread and remove from the heat. Serve immediately, drizzling the hot soup liberally with the mashed basil oil.
Makes: 8 servings