Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Homemade Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

For as long as I can remember, I've been a self-proclaimed soup hater.  Anytime someone would talk about soup, I'd say, "I hate soup."  I'm not sure why I used such a strong word, because there are very few foods I actually hate.  And if presented with soup, I'd usually eat it.  I think my "hatred" of soup goes back to when I was a kid and had the flu or some stomach bug and being fed chicken noodle soup, vegetable soup and/or beef stew out of a can and then throwing it up shortly after.  Because when someone says "soup," that's precisely what comes to mind.  Immediately.  

I've had so many soups I actually bean soup, any kind of chowder, potato soup (even with my very picky attitude toward potatoes), beer cheese soup, broccoli cheese soup, butternut squash soup.  It goes on and on.  I finally came to realize I love soup, for the most just has to be homemade or from a restaurant.  I can't handle it out of a can.  The one exception is tomato soup.  That's one I can eat out of a can.  Perfect heated up with a grilled cheese or peanut butter toast dipped in.  It's one thing I crave when I'm sick. 

Lately I've ventured into making homemade soups and I found this recipe for Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons when I was browsing through Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Foolproof cookbook.  Since I love tomato soup from a can, I figured it could only be improved upon if homemade.  And I loved the idea of grilled cheese croutons...make a grilled cheese, let it rest for a few minutes, slice it into cubes and toss it in your bowl of soup.  Genius.  So I made this soup and absolutely loved it.  To me, its flavor is actually a cross between french onion and tomato soup, as it's pretty heavy on the onions (fine with me, since french onion is another soup I do like).  So this soup kinda made me into a soup lover.  

With your grilled cheese, may I suggest using mayo on the outside of the bread instead of butter.  Ina doesn't do this, but I do.  Garrett made me a grilled cheese a couple weeks ago with may on the outside and it was AMAZING.  It just has so much flavor, and the bread gets so brown and crispy.  Perfect for this recipe.  

Also, the recipe calls for San Marzano tomatoes, which I can never find in the store.  I splurged and bought the organic canned crushed tomatoes.  I left out the saffron because it's super expensive, and the soup was perfectly fine without it.

But I still won't eat chicken noodle soup, beef stew, or vegetable soup.  Even homemade.  *cringe*

Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

For the soup:
 3 Tbsp olive oil
3 cups yellow onions, chopped (2 medium onions)
1 Tbsp minced garlic (3 cloves)
4 cups chicken stock
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
Large pinch of saffron threads
salt and pepper
1/2 cup dry orzo
1/2 cup heavy cream (I used half and half)

In a large pot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.  Stir in the chicken stock, tomatoes, saffron, 1 Tbsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper.  Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill a pot with water, add 2 tsp salt, and bring to a boil.  Add the orzo and cook for 7 minutes.  (It will finish cooking in the soup).  Drain the orzo and add to the soup.  Stir in the cream, return the soup to a simmer, and cook for 10 more minutes, stirring frequently.

Serve hot with Grilled Cheese Croutons scattered on top.

Grilled Cheese Croutons
*A Jill and Garret original recipe*

4 slices fresh white bread (I used Italian from the Publix bakery)
4 Tbsp mayonnaise (or butter)
Shredded cheese (I used sharp cheddar, but any strong cheese would be great)

Heat a skillet over medium-low heat.  Spread mayo on one side of each slice of bread.  Fill bread with as much cheese as you like (the more the better!) and place in skillet.  Cook slowly, about 5 minutes on each side, or until the bread is browned and crispy.  Remove sandwiches from the skillet, and let stand about 5 minutes.  Using a pizza cutter or very sharp knife, cut each sandwich into cubes.  Scatter croutons on top of tomato soup.  Yum! 

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