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Friday, October 9, 2009

Grilled Cheese with Tomato Soup: Upgraded

I was never a big fan of grilled cheese and tomato soup. Don't get me wrong, in theory it could be an incredible meal, but too often it is an experience in soggy greasy bread, flavorless "American" cheeses, and bland watery soup.

But yesterday I was inspired by the latest posting over at Good Things Catered, to create a "dressing up" of this childhood classic...

To re-create the dish in an appropriate and satisfying manner, while staying true to the essence of the original tradition...


Tomato and Sweet Pepper Soup
with Grilled Cheese and Veggie Panini
(Serves 4)
The Soup

2 tbsp. olive oil
2 large red bell peppers
1 sweet onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1-1/2 lbs. ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped (
(You can use almost any kind of tomato, even canned tomatoes if you prefer...)

1/4 cup dry sherry
2 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. rosemary
1 tsp. dried basil
salt and pepper, to taste
a dash sugar

Start by removing the core and seeds from each pepper. Then, slice them into quarters and place them (skin sides up) on a broiler pan. Broil until the skins begin to bubble and char, and then remove and cool (either in a brown paper bag, or a covered bowl).

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frying pan with the onion and garlic. Cook over a gentle heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and translucent (approx. 10 minutes). Remove the skins from the pepper slices and roughly chop the remaining flesh.

Transfer the onions, peppers, tomatoes, sherry, stock, sugar and spices into the ceramic base of your slow cooker and cook on high for 3-4 hours. Then, after the soup has cooled for 10-15 minutes, blend in batches until smooth in consistency.

**Now, I prefer to run the soup through a sieve once and then re-blend the remaining pulp and stir it back into the thin broth. I do it this way because only one blending leaves the soup too grainy.... and I without the pulp it is too thin.....

Of course, you can certainly adjust this process to your personal cooking style.

You are almost done!
And here comes the best part....
This soup is fabulous hot OR chilled!

You can ladle the soup, at this stage, into warmed soup bowls, or refrigerate for 3 hours and then serve in chilled bowls.

**I served a version of this soup at my wedding this summer, and at is was a big hit!
It was made with Heirloom tomatoes and then chilled.... fabulous!

The Panini

8 slices of bread (I used sourdough, but you can use whatever you prefer)
Thinly sliced sharp white cheddar (or your favorite cheese)
*The amount of cheese will also vary greatly depending on personal tastes, but we used about 4 oz. for 4 sandwiches.*
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
2 tbsp. butter
**Portobello mushrooms are also a great addition to these sandwiches.

Melt butter in a fry pan and add the onions. Cook over a medium (medium low) heat for 10 minutes. Add in the red peppers (and/or mushrooms) and cook for another 10 (to 15) minutes, or until onions are well caramelized and the peppers (and/or mushrooms) are soft.

Layer the onions and peppers between two layers of cheese and two slices of bread. Grill on a non-stick panini press, electric grill/griddle, or fry pan until both slices of bread are toasted and brown, and the cheese is fully melted. Serve with warm (or chilled) tomato/pepper soup. Enjoy!

Per bowl of soup and 1 sandwich: approximately 502 calories, 7 g fiber and 18 g protein. Also high in iron, calcium and Vitamins A and C.


Anonymous said...

OH YUM!!! I LOVE grilled veggie paninis! They are my vary favorite!

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