When you live in a food town like New York, you discover places all over the city that are worth a detour anytime you’re close to them. A recent doctor’s visit put me within two long blocks of the Sullivan Street Bakery. I am so fond of James Lahey’s bread that even with the temperature hovering in the 30s, I made the trek over to the Bakery. I’d given Andrew Fahey’s latest and much lauded book “The Sullivan Street Bakery Cookbook” (W.W. Norton 2017) as a gift but we’ve yet to delve into it. Jim Fahey’s background would not suggest he’d end up a James Beard Award winner for Outstanding Baker in 2005. Fahey studied sculpture before he found himself in Italy and immersed himself in the Art of Bread baking in Italy. Returning to New York in 1994, he opened Sullivan Street Bakery in Soho. His resources were limited to the wild yeast he’d hand grown in Italy and an intense desire to bring the craft of Italian baking to this country. By 2000, he’d outgrown Soho and moved north to Hell’s Kitchen. There he expanded his repertoire with Roman-style Pizza, rustic pastries and cookies all with an Italian accent. His Bakery and Café at 533 W 47th St (Tel: 212 265 5580.). The 9th Avenue store is at # 239. My beautifully crisp brown loaf of Puglia bread in hand, I headed home, determined to use it at dinner.
I was intrigued by a recipe for soup that David Tanis published last year in the New York Times. My friend Monique had been extolling the virtues of her vegetarian meals and I had wanted, to try and put more plant-based items on our table. David Tanis’ recipe was a riff on an Italian Potato Pasta soup. Now I may want more meatless meals but I hardly want more carbohydrates in them. But David’s recipe was a great jumping off point. It cooks very quickly, especially for a soup. In fact you can likely get it cooked in 30 minutes. But the pleasure of soup on the stove is the wonderful aroma, the cauldron barely simmering away on the back of the stove.
This recipe relies on store-bought chicken or vegetable stock. I left the onions, carrots and fennel in large dice. I left out the potatoes altogether and instead of the plain pennette or orecchiette called for by Tanis, I added an entire 12 oz. package of fresh Cheese Tortellini which took minutes to cook. I put the baby spinach in the bottom of each bowl, then poured to soup over it, and tucked more raw spinach in each one. The soup was the perfect complement to Mr. Fahey’s phenomenal bread. And there was plenty left for another day. Here is the recipe:
Tortellini Soup with Spinach, Onions, Carrots and Fennel
A warming bowl of flavorful broth, chunky vegetables and pillows of cheese-filled Tortellini.
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more for garnish
- 2 cups diced onion
- 1 cup diced carrot
- 1 cup diced fennel or celery
- Salt and pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 large thyme sprig
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 quarts/12 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth or water
- 1-12oz Package of Fresh Tortellini
- 6 ounces baby spinach
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
- Step 1 In a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven, heat the 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add onion, carrot and fennel, stir, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until softened and golden, 5 to 10 minutes. Adjust the heat to prevent vegetables from browning or scorching.
- Step 2 Stir in bay leaf, thyme sprig, garlic, paprika and tomato paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add broth and a large pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a brisk simmer, 12 to 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
- Step 3 Stir in pasta and simmer another 10 minutes, or until pasta is done. (Soup can be made up to this point, without the pasta, cooled and refrigerated for up to 3 days.)
- Step 4 Line the bottom of each serving bowl with a handful of spinach. Ladle soup into bowls, and sprinkle with Parmesan. Drizzle each serving with a teaspoon of olive oil. Pass extra Parmesan at the table.