Veggie Tomato Soup

Aired August 27, 2007

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), divided
1 medium-size onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 stalks celery, from the center of the bunch with some leaves, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped or grated
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 ciabatta loaf, cut into 1 inch cubes
1/4 cup garlic flakes or powder
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 bag Smartfood popcorn (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Preheat a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat with 2 turns of the pan of EVOO, about 2 tablespoons. Add in the onions, carrots, celery and garlic, and cook for 3-4 minutes until the vegetables become soft. Add in the stock and crushed tomatoes. Bring up to a bubble then reduce the heat until the soup is simmering and cook for 10-15 minutes.

While the soup is simmering away, mix together the bread cubes, 2 tablespoons of EVOO, garlic flakes, cheese, and oregano in a large mixing bowl and spread them out evenly onto a cookie sheet. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until crispy and golden. You may have to occasionally give them a turn or two so all the sides get browned.

To serve, ladle the soup in to bowls and top with the croutons or a handful of cheesy popcorn.

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