March 22, 2015: Easy Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Croutons

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Like all New Yorkers, we are very ready for spring to arrive but the colder temperatures on Sunday, March 22 made for a perfect match for Ina Garten’s Easy Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Croutons.  We worked together on this dish with the majority of the actual cooking being done by Kim so she’ll share how it went.

There actually is not too much prep work with this recipe but we got a later start than we would have liked to on dinner so we decided to share some of the work. Tony started by getting out the bread, chopping two large yellow onions, and mincing the garlic. Meanwhile, I grated four ounces of Gruyère cheese and got out the four cups vegetable stock (substituted for chicken stock), tomatoes, saffron, salt, pepper and 1/2 cup of heavy cream. For the sandwiches, I also got out two tablespoons of butter and set up the grill pan (the recipe suggests using a panini press, which we don’t have or need as the grill pan works just fine!) The soup also called for adding orzo, but we decided to forgo this step since it involved getting down another pot, plus the colander.

Once the onions were chopped, I began to saute them in the Dutch oven over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, they were nicely golden brown and I was ready to add the garlic.  I cooked the garlic and onions together for about a minute and then I was ready to add the vegetable stock, crushed tomatoes, saffron, and salt and pepper. I turned the heat up and the soup came to a boil rather quickly and then I simmered it on low for about 15 minutes.

After the soup had simmered for about 10 minutes, we turned our attention to the sandwiches. I melted the two tablespoons of butter in the microwave and Tony spread it evenly (very evenly, I’d like to point out; he takes great care with all things sandwich-related) on four slices of bread. I kept an eye on the soup and began to heat the grill pan somewhere between medium and medium-low.

By this time, I was ready to add the heavy cream to the soup and let it simmer for another 10 minutes as well as to start making some sandwiches. I put two slices of bread butter side down on the grill pan and then carefully placed half of the grated cheese on each slice. I then topped the cheese with the remaining two slices of the buttered bread. After a few minutes, the sandwiches were ready to be flipped and after another couple of minutes more, they were ready to be eaten, as was the soup. Considering how little effort it took, I definitely agree with calling the soup “easy.”

I cut each sandwich into 16 croutons and put just a few of the grilled cheese croutons into the soup so they wouldn’t get soggy. I put our remaining croutons onto plates to add to our soup as we ate it. (Note that the recipe does not call for a whole sandwich per person, but I’m not sure either one of us would have been willing to share.)

The soup was bright tasting with great tomato flavor, while the saffron really added to the color and slightly sweet flavor from the tomatoes. The grilled cheese croutons were the perfect crunchy, creamy bite to cut through the acidity and slight richness of the soup. I would also say we didn’t miss the orzo one bit!  The tomato soup and grilled cheese croutons were a lovely match with 2013 Cateus des Tours Brouilly. This wine, suggested by Wines by the Flask, is a lighter-bodied red and is a beautiful reddish-deep purple color. We might welcome another cold snap just so we can have this again!

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