Gourmet Magazine named her restaurant one of the top 50 in America and she’s won a James Beard Award. But Holly Smith, executive chef at Cafe Juanita, is also a mom who likes to make a mess with her son Oliver.
“One percent of the time,” she said. “I believe in washing my hands and using them.”
One of the best recipes for interacting with a younger child is Pappa Pomodoro, tomato and bread soup.
“I think this is a fun thing to make with kids because it’s all about the hands,” Smith said.
Under supervision, Oliver slices the bread and heirloom tomatoes. Holly uses the very ripe, rather ugly looking ones called “number twos.” They still taste great, and cost about $2 less a pound.
The only cooking in this recipe involves olive oil and garlic, sauteed until it’s golden. Then Holly adds fresh basil before she and Oliver mash everything together with their hands.
“It feels like mud,” Oliver said.
The soup doesn’t need to be heated.
“I like it when it’s the temperature of a tomato coming off the vine,” Holly said.
She couples the soup with a side salad and some homemade bruscetta with goat cheese. She thinks more kids would enjoy the flavors if they simply tried them.
“Instead of assuming children are going to have unsophisticated Velveeta palates, they actually have a really lovely palate,” she said.
Pappa al Pomodoro
by Chef Holly Smith of Café Juanita
These numbers are approximate. Taste and add as necessary to balance flavors
2T finely chopped garlic
1-2t cayenne (to taste)
Kosher salt to taste (start with 2T)
Fruity Extra Virgin Olive oil (begin with 1 cup to cook garlic)
¼ cup chopped basil leaves
4T sherry vinegar - begin with 2 - acidity of tomatoes and balsamic will affect total needed Torn bread - 2-3 slices (Ciabatta works well. Use crust as well as center)
Core tomatoes. Chop basil and reserve for the end. In a large stainless bowl combine tomatoes and bread.
Heat oil in saute pan and add garlic - stir to separate well and stir while it cooks - when this begins to go golden pull off heat and add to tomatoes. Add half salt and cayenne.
Work with hands until nicely uniform.
Add balsamic and sherry half way through mixing.
Remove excess skins once all mixed - squeeze out good stuff.
Taste and adjust seasoning. Add basil after all the tomato skins are out.
Serve at room temperature. Depending on your preference and how much oil flavor your soup is showing, you can garnish this soup with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and cracked black pepper.
Chef’s note: This soup holds for 2-3 days.