Simple Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

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Tomato soup is one of my favorites — so simple yet so delicious. And with the crazy April winter weather today (30 degrees? What?), this seemed about right. This version of the classic is particularly simple — you use canned (San Marzano) tomatoes, onion, garlic and stock, flavored with some saffron and toss in some orzo. The recipe doesn’t even call for pureeing it, though I did choose to do that since I like the creamy texture. Then, Ina Garten makes a genius move and turns the traditional grilled cheese pairing into — wait for it — grilled cheese croutons. Yes. It’s the perfect combo.

TW’s Tips

  • I had some grape tomatoes hanging around that I wasn’t sure I’d use, so I roasted them in a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes and added them to the mix
  • I used an immersion blender to cream the mixture a bit before I added the cream — I like a silkier texture to the soup.
  • The grilled cheese croutons are awesome but add them gradually as you eat if you don’t like the grilled cheese too soggy.
  • If you don’t have a panini grill (I don’t) just use a frying pan for the grilled cheese, or a grill pan.

Enjoy!

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Simple Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 3 cups yellow onions, chopped (2 onions)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • Large pinch of saffron threads
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup orzo
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Grilled Cheese Croutons (see below)

Directions
In a large pot or Dutch oven such as Le Creuset, 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 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill a medium pot with water, add 2 teaspoons 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 it 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

Ingredients

  • 4 (1/2-inch-thick) slices country white bread
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated

Directions

Heat a panini grill. Place the four slices of bread on a cutting board and brush lightly with the melted butter, being sure to butter the corners. Turn the slices over and pile Gruyere on two of the slices. Place the remaining two slices of bread on top of the Gruyere, buttered sides up.

Grill the sandwiches on the panini grill for about 5 minutes, until nicely browned. Place on a cutting board, allow to rest for 1 minute and cut into 1-inch cubes.

 

Broccoli Soup

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I’m on a bit of a cold weather food kick, so needless to say, I have another soup in store for ya! My BFF Melissa made this for me a few weeks ago (it’s a Neelys recipe) and it’s so creamy and delicious, yet also surprisingly good for you! It uses only 1/2 cup of cream, and no cheese…and you would never know it. I made a triple (!!!) batch because I wanted to take meals to a couple of my girlfriends who just had babies. I figured they had probably seen way too many casseroles/pastas and were likely craving some vegetables, so this was the perfect solution (and also freezable if they didn’t want to eat it then).

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To add a little richness to the soup, sprinkle some cheese on top or a little sour cream, and serve with a crusty baguette that you can dip. Yummmm.

TW’s TIps

  • It is SO worth the investment to buy an immersion blender if you make a lot of soups. It’s also great for mashed potatoes. Otherwise, you can use a blender or food processor but you’ll have to do it in batches.
  • Make sure you taste it and add more salt as needed (I added more than I would have thought…probably because it was a triple batch, but whatever!)
  • Use homemade chicken stock if you have it.
  • To freeze, ladle into ziploc freezer bags (quart or gallon depending on what portion you want to freeze) and lay flat in the freezer. Then you can stand them up once they’re frozen and they thaw more quickly.

Broccoli Soup

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh broccoli
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup cream

Directions

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in heavy medium pot over medium-high heat. Add broccoli, onion, carrot, salt and pepper and saute until onion is translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute, until the flour reaches a blonde color. Add stock and bring to boil.

Simmer uncovered until broccoli is tender, about 15 minutes. Pour in cream. With an immersion blender, puree the soup. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and then replace the lid back on the pot.

Hungarian Style Chili with Smoked Gouda Polenta

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It’s getting a little chilly here in San Diego (well, chilly for San Diego at least), just the weather that makes me crave some warm, comforting soups and chilis. This Hungarian chili, a Rachael Ray recipe, is such a cool take on the traditional Mexican/Texan/Southwestern varieties. It uses basic chili ingredients (onion, pepper, chile, tomato) but switches up the spice with paprika and marjoram/oregano.

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But the real kicker is the smoked gouda polenta that the chili makes its home atop. That’s right, I said smoked gouda. This creamy, cheesy polenta truly makes the dish. You get some smoky flavors from the chile and the chili powder and paprika, but also from the cheese, and the bright herbs on top add just the right note of freshness. You’ll want to curl up on the couch or in front of a fireplace with this dish.

TW’s Tips

  • Using a red pepper instead of green really makes a big difference in the flavors here — don’t switch it out!
  • Find quick cooking polenta in the pasta aisle. Not the pre-made “roll” of polenta — it’s a grain-like consistency that reminds me of finer couscous. It comes in a box.
  • Dill worked really well on top.
  • This makes great leftovers — and would freeze well if you make a double batch. Just make the polenta fresh.

Hungarian Style Chili with Smoked Gouda Polenta  

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons EVOO
  • 2 pounds coarse ground sirloin
  • 1 red chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder, a palmful and a half
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons smoked sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram or oregano, 1/3 palmful
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 quart beef stock
  • 1 1/2 cups water or chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup quick cooking polenta
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup shredded Gouda or smoked Gouda
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Finely chopped fresh dill, parsley and chives for garnish

Directions

Heat a large pot over medium-high to high heat. Add beef and brown 7-8 minutes. Add hot pepper, bell peppers, onions and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook to soften vegetables, 7-8 minutes more. Stir in chili powder, sweet paprika and oregano. Add tomato paste to pot and stir to combine, 1 minute. Add stock to pot and bring chili to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook 15 minutes more.
In a separate pot, bring water or chicken stock and milk to a boil, whisk in polenta and cook 2-3 minutes until thickened. Stir in butter and cheese, season with salt and pepper.

Fill shallow bowls with polenta, make a well in the center. Fill well with ladles of chili and top with sour cream and herbs.