Ged Rid Of Your Garden Tomatoes! Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup with Grilled Cheese Panini

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A HUGE thanks to my good friend Maryn for this gorgeous photo!!!

So I'v been asked recently by a few people for some recipes using tomatoes, and I keep giving out my Tomato Basil Soup recipe. It's my recreation of my favorite soup I'd have at Capriccio back in Stamford, Connecticut. It's really easy to make, and all depends on the perfect tomato. In a pinch (or winter!) you can use a large can of San Marzano tomatoes. But truly nothing is substitute for organic, fresh from your garden, ripe-vine tomatoes. This soup can be served piping hot or cold. I keep it simple and healthy with not adding cream, but if you want that extra decadence, go ahead and put a splash at the end after you puree the soup.

And the perfect partner is, of course, a grilled cheese sandwich! The classic combo of gooey melted buffalo mozzarella and garlicky fresh pesto pairs beautifully with the sweet, roasted tomato soup. Enjoy it. And don't forget the Nuttelino recipe for dessert!

Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup with Grilled Cheese Panini
For the soup:
1 lb fresh, overly ripe organic tomatoes (Roma, or vine-ripe works best for this)
1 small white onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 bay leaf
2-4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp fresh basil, chiffonade
pinch fresh thyme (1/2 tsp fresh or 1/4 tsp dried)
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 cups (i.e. 1 box) vegetable or chicken broth -- recommend Swanson's

For the sandwiches:
good quality artisan bread such as country loaf, rosemary, or herb (don't use chiabatta this time!)
fresh buffalo mozzarella
homemade or store-bought pesto
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

special equipment: panini press or non-stick pan with heavy press

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean up.

Cut the tomatoes in half and place on baking sheet. Season liberally with salt and pepper, then drizzle with olive oil. Roast in oven 30-40 minutes, or until very soft and caramelized. Cooking time will depend on size of tomatoes.

While the tomatoes roast, prepare the base of the soup. Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pot. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook on medium heat until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, bay leaf and thyme and cook another 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Add the tomatoes to the vegetable mixture (any juices and pan drippings as well) and using the back end of your spoon, gently break up the tomatoes while mixing them in with the vegetables. Add the stock and half of the basil (reserving the rest for garnish), increase heat to high, and bring soup up to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat back down to medium and simmer for 10 minutes so flavors can meld together.

After soup has simmered, it's time to puree the soup. Remove the bay leaf (and thyme stems if you included those as well) and puree in the pot using an immersion blender. Conversely, puree the soup in batches in a food processor or blender. Return soup to a clean pot and reheat to desired temperature or let stand to cool.

Now make your grilled cheese sandwiches. Cut the bread into 1/4-1/2 inch thick slices. Brush both sides of each slice with some olive oil. Set aside. Take the mozzarella cheese and drain very well, then use a paper towel to wring out any more moisture -- the drier the cheese, the less soggy the sandwich! Cut the mozzarella into 1/4 inch thick slices and set aside. To assemble your sandwich, take a slice of bread and spread some pesto on one side. Top with a layer of cheese, then season with a little salt and pepper to taste. Take another s lice of bread and spread pesto on one side, then place on top of the cheese, pesto-side down to create a sandwich. Repeat with remaining bread slices to make as many sandwiches as you like.

Preheat your panini press. Gently place your sandwich in the press and close, and cook until cheese is melted and sandwich is nicely pressed together. Let stand 1 minute before cutting in half. Serve immediately.

If you do not have a panini press, you can still make this sandwich panin-style. Preheat a non-stick pan. Place sandwich in pan, then top with a weighted press; if you don't have a weighted press, then simply use a brick wrapped in aluminum foil or another heavy pot or pan. Cook about 3 minutes on that side and then flip over to toast the other side, another 3 minutes or until both sides are golden brown. Repeat with remaining sandwiches then serve.

To serve soup and sandwich together, simply ladle desired amount of soup in a cup or bowl. Top with a little more basil on top and small drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil if desired. Cut the sandwich in half diagonally, and set to side of the soup. Serve immediately.

Serving Suggestions and Notes:
Olive tapenade can be substituted instead of pesto. Again, you can use store-bought olive tapenade or make your own. To make your own, simply place about a cup of  pitted kalamata olives, a large clove of garlic, a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper and about 1/4 tsp of fresh thyme in a food processor. Pulse until chopped very fine. Then using your feeder tube, turn the processor on and drizzle olive oil until the olives come together into a thicker, spreadable paste just like a pesto. You can cover and keep your tapenade refrigerated for up to 3 weeks! Great for sandwiches, soup toppings, crostini, and dips!

I like playing around with different bread-cheese combinations as well. If you find a fabulous herbed artisan bread at the bakery, then go ahead and use that! Wheat's your thing? Try it! The point is you want a spongy and denser bread that's still light enough to press well and hold the cheese. Using a holey bread like chiabatta isn't good as the cheese and pesto will just ooze right out and make a very messy sandwich. You want it to be easy and clean enough to pick up and dip in the soup. Because the base of the soup is tomato, you can use virtually any herbed bread: rosemary, thyme, sun-dried tomato and olive (although that's a bit redundant, no?).

Likewise, any cheese would work as well. Just make sure it can melt relatively well. Great cheeses to work with for panini include: goat cheeses (including feta), cheddars, butter cheeses, brie, camembert, bleu cheeses, gruyere, swiss, any fresh mozzarella, and unsmoked provelones. Harder cheeses like smoked provelone, parmesan, romano, aged goat cheeses, or any aged cheeses like Rembrandt and manchego will melt a lot harder. You'll end up with a cheese that's half-melted and bread that will most likely be burnt as you stubbornly sit there trying to melt the damn cheese. Unless you plan on super-finely grating them, just stick to the soft, semi-soft, fresh cheeses for the paninis.

And you can go ahead and add more to the sandwich as well. Love prosciutto? Do it. I sometimes do this with a pesto-prosciutto-fresh mozzarella combination. If we're in Lent and fasting, I'll do grilled vegetables with the fresh mozzarella or goat cheese. Options are endless here! But I do have to say, there is something simply classic and perfect about a tomato-basil soup and mozzarella panini. Like Channel says, before you leave take once accessory off. Well, before you make this recipe, take one ingredient off the sandwich!

Enjoy it!

1 comment:

Maryn said...

Best tomato soup ever!