Monday, September 11, 2017

Roasted Tomato and Red Bell Pepper Soup with Basil and Grilled Cheese Croutons

For this version of tomato soup (I've posted a few others on this blog) I decided to roast some tomatoes, red bell peppers, onion, and garlic for the base and added fresh basil for a nice herbaceous punch. And, yes - grilled cheese croutons - oh yeah, baby! Not my invention (adapted from a recipe in 100 Best Tomato Recipes, a 2017 Better Homes & Gardens special publication), but it's da bomb! Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup are a classic combo and you definitely get the best of both worlds in this pairing.

9-10 medium ripe tomatoes, cut in half horizontally and seeded
2 red bell peppers, cut into quarters and seeded
1 medium onion, sliced horizontally
3-4 garlic cloves (peel on, but with stem ends trimmed)
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

1 cup water
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1/4 cup julienned or chopped fresh basil
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. heavy cream

Grilled Cheese Croutons:
4 slices of white bread
Cheese slices (Monterey Jack, Cheddar, American, whatever floats your boat)
1/4 cup olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 450F.

2. Place the seeded and sliced tomatoes onto a foil-lined baking sheet, cut side down. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

3. On a second foil-lined baking sheet, place the quartered bell peppers, cut side down, sliced onion and garlic cloves. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

4. Place both baking sheets into the oven and roast for 20-25 minutes or until the peppers are charred (turn the onions once or twice during the roasting period).

5. Remove both baking sheets from the oven. Gather the foil around the onion, garlic and peppers and seal. Let sit 15-20 minutes to let the peppers steam (will make it easier to peel off the skins).

6. After 15-20 minutes, open the foil with the peppers and peel off the skins. Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their peels.

7. Add the roasted tomatoes, peeled bell peppers, onions, garlic and any accumulated juices to a food processor or blender. Add 1 cup of water, tomato paste, fresh basil, cayenne pepper, black pepper, salt, and sugar. Blend the ingredients for 10-15 seconds or until smooth. 

8. Pour the mixture into a medium pot and bring to a boil. Stir in 1 tbsp. of heavy cream and heat for another 20-30 seconds, reduce heat and keep on a low simmer.

Grilled Cheese Croutons:

9. In the meantime, make the grilled cheese sandwiches for the croutons: brush a generous amount of olive oil onto 4 bread slices. Turn the bread over and place your fav cheese onto two of the slices. 

10. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add the sandwiches, olive-oil brushed sides down, and press firmly with a spatula. Once the bottoms start to brown (2-3 minutes), top the cheese-covered slices with the plain bread slices. Brush the tops with olive oil. Press down with a spatula, then flip the sandwiches over and brown the other side, pressing down occasionally. 

11. Once both sides are browned, remove the sandwiches to a chopping board. Cut each sandwich into 1" squares. The croutons can be wrapped in foil and refrigerated for up to 3 days before using (just reheat on the foil, unwrapped, in a toaster or regular oven at 350F for 5-7 minutes). 

To Serve:
Ladle the hot soup into individual serving bowls, top with a few grilled cheese croutons, and garnish with fresh basil leaves.

Vine-ripened tomatoes and red bell peppers. 

Cut each tomato in half horizontally and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon. 

Place the tomatoes, cut side down onto a foil-lined baking sheet.
Place the sliced onion and quartered bell peppers onto another foil-lined baking sheet.
Drizzle the veggies with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. 

 Roast the veggies at 450F for 20-25 minutes or until the peppers are lightly charred.
Wrap the foil lining around the bell peppers, onion and garlic, seal, and let steam for 15-20 minutes to loosen the pepper skins.  

Peel the skins off of the bell peppers. 

Place the roasted bell peppers, garlic, onion, tomatoes, all the accumulated juices from roasting, 1 cup of water, tomato paste, fresh basil, cayenne pepper, black pepper, salt, and sugar. Blend the ingredients for 15-20 seconds or until smooth. 

 Pour the mixture into a medium pot and bring to a boil.

Add 1 tbsp. of heavy cream and bring to a boil. 

For the Grilled Cheese Croutons: 

 Brush 4 slices of bread generously with olive oil. Place cheese slices onto two of the bread slices and place all 4 slices into a medium hot pan (oil side down). When the bottoms start to brown, top the cheesy bread slices with the plain slices. 

 Brush the tops of the sandwiches with extra olive oil.

Press down on the sandwiches occasionally, cooking until both sides are nicely browned. 

Remove the sandwiches to a cutting board and cut each into 1" squares to form croutons.

 Ladle the soup into serving bowls and garnish with the grilled cheese 
croutons and fresh basil. 

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