Happy 2013! I’d love to give some beautiful philosophical discourse, ticking off all of the memorable events of 2012 and wishing everyone all the happiness and success they desire in 2013, but I’m just not good at that stuff. I’ll just say that though 2012 had its ups and downs, all in all we feel very blessed and are looking forward to 2013. We will be welcoming a baby boy into our family and our home, and we are so excited for this new adventure of parenting! Now, since this is a food blog, on to the food!
This recipe was on the front cover of Food Network Magazine a couple of months ago. Well, the magazine laid around our house for a while, and Tim told me every time he saw the picture, he got hungry for it. When I looked at the recipe, I was reluctant to make it because it called for heavy cream, but I thought maybe I could substitute Greek yogurt or fat free half and half. I read some of the reviews (which were raving), and many people said they used fat free half and half. Score!
Because I could only find San Marzano tomatoes in whole tomatoes, not crushed, I puréed the soup with my stick blender to make it smooth and velvety. I definitely liked the texture that the orzo added though. I wouldn’t advise actually using the grilled cheese as croutons because it gets soggy. I’d just go the old fashioned route and dip the grilled cheese in the soup.
This made a big batch for two people, so we ate it leftover a couple of times. Each time, I made the grilled cheese a little differently, and my favorite way was with some pesto in the grilled cheese. It just really complimented the tomato flavor nicely and gave it a little extra kick of flavor that was sort of missing before. I also played around with switching the cheese to sharp cheddar, and I have to say that I preferred that. The Gruyere was nice and smooth and buttery, but again, I just liked the extra flavor that the sharp cheddar added. So you have some options to play around with! I’m going to write the recipe the way I liked it best, but do whatever you want.
Even though this looks like a long recipe with a lot of ingredients, it requires very little prep work. Tim was asking what he could do to help me, and all I could really come up with him to do was to cut the onions and grate the cheese. The rest is kind of just wait time and dumping things in the pot. Pretty perfect for a cold winter weeknight meal.
Tomato Soup with Pesto Grilled Cheese Croutons
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves of minced garlic
- 4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
- Large pinch of saffron threads
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup orzo
- 1/2 cup fat free half and half
- Grilled Cheese Croutons (see below)
In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes to caramelize, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in the chicken stock, tomatoes, saffron, about 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Using a stick blender, purée the soup until desired consistency is reached.
Meanwhile, fill a medium pot with water, bring to a boil, and season with salt. 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 half and half, return the soup to a simmer and cook for 10 more minutes, stirring frequently. Adjust salt and pepper to taste if needed.
Pesto Grilled Cheese
- 4 slices multigrain bread
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 4 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
- 2 tablespoons basil pesto (homemade or store bought)
Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Place the four slices of bread on a cutting board and spread with butter. Turn the slices over (bread side down) and pile cheese on two of the slices. Spread about one tablespoon of pesto on the remaining two pieces. Place the remaining two slices of bread on top of the cheese, buttered sides up.
Toast the sandwiches in the skillet for about five minutes on each side, or until nicely browned. Place on a cutting board, allow to rest for 1 minute and cut into halves or 1-inch cubes for croutons.
Serve the Tomato Soup with Pesto Grilled Cheese for dipping or as croutons.