Does anything warm the soul quite like soup? With all of the crazy cold and snowy weather we’ve been having, I can’t think of another meal more comforting than tomato soup and grilled cheese. Simple and satisfying. Ina Garten’s Easy Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Croutons puts a special twist on the classic with a bit of cream in the soup and grilled Gruyère cheese for the croutons. I know I say this about a lot of Ina’s dishes but THIS could be my most favorite. I highly recommend committing this recipe to memory and making it often!
The ingredients are pretty simple. I didn’t have any homemade chicken stock left, so I used Trader Joe’s brand (one of our favorite store bought stocks). As for tomatoes, Ina recommends San Marzano – which is included in the recipe below – but this time I went with the Cento because (I wanted to use organic) and I thought they tasted great. Olio Santo Olive Oil is always a must for me – it’s Ina’s favorite and it’s available in our shop (win-win).
The saffron threads can be pricey but they add a warmth to the soup and if they are stored correctly, they will keep their flavor for a long time. I’ve read that you can substitute tumeric for saffron threads but I haven’t tried it. If you do, please let me know what you think. The benefits of tumeric are seemingly endless so if you like the flavor, it’s a great option.
In my opinion, the butter is the most important part of the crouton equation. I did use a panini press – that’s what gives the croutons those sear lines – but you can always grill the sandwich sans press. Just make sure to butter the bread to the corners so that every part gets a pretty brown crisp. And heed Ina’s direction to let the sandwich cool post grilling – much easier to cut and the croutons come out so much better. You can even slice the grilled sandwiches lengthwise to make little dippers for the soup – fun for kids and adults!
Hope you enjoy making and eating this dish as much as I do. Sometimes the simple and easy stuff just can’t be beat.
Easy Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons (serves 4 to 6)
3 tablespoons Olio Santo 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 recipe)
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 one 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
4 (½-inch-thick) slices country white bread
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
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 Gruyère on two of the slices. Place the remaining two slices of bread on top of the Gruyère, -buttered sides up.
Grill the sandwiches on the panini grill for about 5 minutes, until nicely browned. Place on a cutting board and allow to rest for 1 minute, then cut into 1-inch cubes.
Copyright 2012, Barefoot Contessa Foolproof by Ina Garten, Clarkson Potter/Publishers, All Rights Reserved