There are a few foods I recall disliking immensely when I was young, only to have gradually and unexpectedly come to love over the years. The tomato is one of them. As a child, I simply couldn’t stomach the slimy, pulpy insides. And the taste was just too “of-the-garden,” making me very aware of the fact that I was eating a Plant. There was no quicker way to ruin a burger than by adding a slice of tomato, and my mother’s insistence that it would add a lovely freshness to the sandwich only strengthened my desire to keep my meat patty naked and undisturbed.
Today, I love the tomato for its rich, sweet, yet pleasantly tart flavor. Its garden-fresh taste is a welcome addition.. its juiciness a palate-cleanser to richer foods. It is the symbol of a ripe summer, and a few days ago it was heroically featured in a delicious soup at Morandi.
Pappa al Pomodoro was the soup special that day, and it came chilled in a shallow dish. It was light in mouthfeel and intense in taste, with classic flavors of garlic, basil and balsamic vinegar. The soup had a slightly chunky texture that I later found out was bread– as Pappa al Pomodoro is made with stale bread that soaks up the juices of the tomato and thickens the soup. The result is surprisingly light, however, so much so that I mistook the tiny bread crumbs for celery or onion bits. It was a pure dish that honored only a few ingredients – seemingly humble yet sophisticated under the spotlight.
I ate the soup slowly, alternating with sips of a crisp Soave, and occasionally with some bites of crusty white bread dipped in fruity olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. It was a lovely, simple summer meal, and as I sat there enjoying practically-unadulterated Tomato, I felt very grown-up indeed.