I have a love/hate relationship with Valentine’s day. It always seems to stress me out, whether it was when I was single and felt left out, or now that I am married and I feel pressure to outdo last year’s date idea or gift. But with the recent Konmari craze, of which I am a very happy follower albeit slow learner, I have decided to let go of my need to create an extravagant meal or give an elaborate gift. Instead, I am gifting my husband his favorite comfort food meal “Creamy” Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.
Let’s be honest, this is probably on a lot of favorite meal lists. It's creamy, a bit spicy if you like, crunchy and cheesy – the very definition of classic comfort food. I have updated this dish by adding roasted red peppers, some red pepper flakes and eliminating the heavy cream. It only takes 20 minutes to prepare, is made with minimal ingredients, many if which you may already have in your pantry, and it won’t break the bank.
I you are feeling adventurous in the kitchen or perhaps especially smitten with your beloved, you may decide to make the bread for the sandwiches from scratch. But if not, just treat yourselves to a nice crusty loaf of bakery fresh bread and good quality cheese. What makes this meal so special is its simplicity and all of the nostalgic memories it will invoke. Add a bottle of your favorite red wine, serve it in your best dishes, light some candles and it will be a Valentine’s Day for the record books! And of you are looking for more soups and stews to add to your recipe collection this winter, check out The Chopping Block's upcoming Winter Soups and Stews class on Saturday, February 23 at Lincoln Square. We also have Seasonal Soups and Stews coming up in March.
“Creamy” Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
1 Tablespoon olive oil
½ cup of chopped onion (I just use whatever I have)
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 28oz can of tomatoes (I had whole peeled on hand, but diced or crushed work well, too.)
1 charred/roasted red pepper with the skin, seeds removed (if you have jarred, use it!)
1 bunch of basil with the stem
Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt and pepper
1. Heat oil in a medium sized pot over medium-low heat.
2. Add chopped onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt and sauté for 3-5 minutes until translucent, stirring occasionally.
3. Add chopped garlic, stir once and cook just until you smell the garlic (about 45 seconds to 1 minute) If using, add red pepper flakes at this time as well.
4. Add can of tomatoes with the juice, roasted red pepper, ½ teaspoon of salt, black pepper and the stem of the bunch of basil reserving the leaves.
5. Lower heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally so the bottom does not burn.
6. After 15 minutes, remove the basil stem.
7. Add all of the contents of the pot to a blender.
8. Add the equivalent of 2 Tablespoons fresh basil leaves to the jar – turn on the blender and slowly bring to high speed – blend for 2-3 minutes. The longer you blend the “creamier” the consistency will get. If it's too thick just add a few tablespoons of water. Check for seasoning and add more salt and pepper to taste, blend again quickly, taste again for seasoning and serve with grilled cheese.
Hearty bread of choice, sliced
Butter (room temperature)
Cheese of choice – shredded or sliced (i.e. cheddar, Gruyere, pepper jack, etc.)
Large fry pan (nonstick if you have it – if not, just use a little more butter in the pan)
While soup is simmering, prepare the grilled cheese sandwiches.
1. Preheat pan over medium heat.
2. Spread butter on one side of each slice of bread .
3. Add a little butter to pan – let it melt and swirl to coat entire bottom of pan.
4. Lay bread buttered side down into pan – add a mound/slice cheese on top of each slice bread – cover with a lid for 2-3 minutes to quicken the cheese melting.
5. Remove cover and using a spatula gently lift one slice of bread out of pan and make a sandwich with cheese sides together. Continue to cook until bottom of sandwich is golden brown – flip sandwich and cook until other side is golden brown and cheese is oozing out the sides!
6. Cut into halves/croutons or even use a heart-shaped cookie cutter if you like – serve alongside the soup.