Comfort Soups: Tomato and Grilled Cheese
by Laura Frerichs, Tastemaker in Residence
Another winter is upon us at the farm, and this January we welcomed another little farmer to our family, William Jack! We are snuggling up by the cozy fireplace and getting to know our new family member. Eli is thrilled to have a little brother and we are back to the sleep-deprived new parent stage while also delighting in our expanded family and Willie's first smiles. A group of dear friends has been keeping our family well-fed these past few weeks as we adjust to our new reality of a family of four. We've had braised short ribs, sweet corn cornbread, fresh ham roast, vegetable tarts, quiche, and a handful of delicious, warming soups and stews. I have not eaten this well in a very long time!
During this cold, dark time of year when we eagerly pine for Spring, I am usually always in the mood for a bowl of homemade tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich. Even as new parents, we have found the time to make this of late and use our summer farm-canned tomatoes for a taste of the vine-ripened tomato. We then spice up our grilled cheese up with artisan bread, dijon mustard, soft goat cheese, grated mozzarella, and a slathering of parsley or basil pesto. Dip the gourmet grilled cheese in the tomato soup and there's no better combo. Would be great Superbowl food--you can easily feed a crowd and make a few different variations of grilled cheese (sundried tomatoes! olives! spinach and gruyere!) to keep warm in the oven and serve when ready. I'm not much of a football fan, but even I'd show up to a Superbowl party with food like that. :)
Tomato Soup (recipe adapted from the Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters)
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 medium onion, sliced
2 medium carrots, sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup white wine (optional)
2 qts whole canned tomatoes (or use fresh ones if it’s summer and they’re actually in season)
1 scant Tbsp white rice
2 cups home-made chicken or vegetable broth (or use low-sodium pre-packaged broth)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme
1 cup water
- Warm a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat.
- To the warm pan, add olive oil, butter, onion,carrot, and a pinch of salt. Cover pan and cook until vegetables are soft but not brown. Add water as necessary to keep them from browning. Add garlic and white wine to vegetables in pan and cook for additional 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, rice, another pinch of salt, broth, bay leaf and thyme or basil to the pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes or until tomatoes fall apart. Add 1 cup water and continue cooking for another 10 minutes, until the rice is tender. Remove the bay leaf.
- If you have an immersion blender, purée the soup in the pot until smooth, about 1 minute. If you do not have an immersion blender, carefully ladle the soup into a regular blender until the blender jar is about one-third full. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Repeat with remaining soup.
- Add salt to taste. If soup is too thick, add more water as needed.
Cook's Note - Another fun twist on tomato soup and grilled cheese is at Smitten Kitchen: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2011/09/roasted-tomato-soup-with-broiled-cheddar/
-Ina Garten's tomato soup and grilled cheese croutons that is on our must-try list: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/easy-tomato-soup-grilled-cheese-croutons-recipe.html