Monday, October 25, 2010
Tomato Basil Soup and Grilled Cheese
What could be better on a cool cloudy day than tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich? Homemade tomato basil soup and Alton Brown's idea of a perfect grilled cheese sandwich of course!
The soup recipe is mine, the sandwich I have to credit to AB. What a delicious combo!
The soup is super easy to make, and uses canned tomatoes so can be made year-round! Splurge and get the more expensive Italian brand of tomatoes, either with or without basil added is fine. The way I see it, if the tomatoes are your main ingredient, you might as well use good ones!
Easy and Delicious Tomato Basil Soup
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium to large sweet (vidalia if you can get it) onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small shallot, chopped fine (optional)
1 large can crushed tomatoes
1 box chicken broth
1 small bunch fresh basil, leaves picked from stems, half the leaves left whole and half cut into a chiffonade (reserve a few sprigs of baby basil leaves for a garnish if you care about that sort of thing)
1/2c. heavy (whipping) cream
salt and pepper to taste.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or small soup pot. Saute the onions and shallots about 5 minutes over medium heat, then add in the garlic and continue sauteing approximately 5 more minutes, or until the onion is translucent and soft. Add in the can of tomatoes chicken broth, and whole basil leaves, and bring to a simmer. Simmer approximately 20 minutes. Carefully transfer to a blender in small batches (remove the small center cap of your lid so you don't build up pressure with the hot liquid and burn yourself when it squirts out... hold a kitchen towel loosely over the hole in the lid to avoid any splash when you turn the blender on) OR use a hand-held immersion blender in the pot, and puree the soup until smooth. At this stage you may choose to run the soup through a medium-mesh strainer to remove the tomato seeds (which can be unpleasantly tough when cooked) and stringy bits of basil, or you can just leave it the way it is if you don't mind a few tomato seeds and onion bits. Return soup to low heat heat and add in the basil chiffonade and cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (DO NOT BOIL after you put in the cream... the cream will curdle, yuck!)
For a lighter, healthier version, the cream may be omitted.
Alton Brown's version of The Perfect Grilled Cheese
Crusty peasant bread, 1/2 inch thick slices
shredded sharp cheddar
freshly cracked black pepper
Spread one slice of bread with Dijon mustard and top the mustard with a healthy dose of freshly cracked black pepper. Pile on a small handful of shredded sharp cheddar, top with the remaining slice, and spritz or brush the outsides of your sandwich with olive oil.
At this point AB recommends using two heated cast-iron skillets placed on an oven-mitt on the counter, with the sandwich in one skillet and the other skillet sitting on top of the sandwich to weigh it down, in lieu of using a unitasker panini press (we all know how much AB hates unitaskers). If you own a panini press, by all means use it. If you do not own a panini press, be aware you can make beautifully perfect paninis in a waffle iron or a George Foreman Grill I've never tried the waffle iron, but I saw someone do it on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives... but I DO use my George to make paninis ALL THE TIME. They turn out beautifully, and there's no reason to use anything else in my opinion!