Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

Ina (as in Ina Garten- the creator of the most wonderfully, foolproof recipes. ever.) is realeasing a new cookbook at the end of the month which I have been actively counting down the days until I get to carefully page through it, read every word, and cook every recipe. This recipe was pre-released and I couldn’t help but give it a go.  The cookbook is called “Foolproof: Recipes you can trust” and this one rang true.  It’s a light, easy dinner that warmed my insides and tasted delicious.

I’ve found the secret to any tomato based dish:

San Marzano Tomatoes.

This isn’t a brand. It’s a TYPE of tomato.  They look as pictured on the can- long and thin.  The flesh of these tomatoes is much thicker with fewer seeds, and the taste is stronger, more sweet and less acidic.

The less acidic part is particularly important because no one wants an acidic sauce.

So this recipe calls for crushed tomatoes but whole foods only had san marzano tomatoes in whole form (imagine that- whole tomatoes at whole foods). No problem- I whipped out my handy dandy food processor.

I heated some olive oil in a dutch oven (taylor only knows this term to have one meaning- we won’t discuss it here) and threw in 3 cups of chopped onions.  I simmered them on low-medium heat until they were brown and soft.  You want to give them a full 20 minutes or they will be too crunchy. At minute 19, throw in 3 cloves of chopped garlic.  At minute 20, put in the tomatoes, 4 cups of chicken broth, 1 tbs of salt (it sounds like a lot but it’s needed), 1 tsp pepper, and a large pinch of saffron.  I’m not sure how much the saffron added. It’s a pretty expensive spice so if it’s not on sale or you don’t have it on hand, don’t worry about it.

Now let this simmer for 15 minutes.  During this time, cook the orzo.  Boil it for 5 minutes in salted water.  It will finish cooking in the soup. Drain it and throw it into the soup.

Here’s where you pour in 1/2 cup of cream.  I forgot about this and didn’t realize it until I wrote this post.  I’m sure it would have made it a lot richer but it was still very good without it.

While the soup was simmering on low, I got the grilled cheese croutons ready. I sliced some french bread in 1/2 inch slices and buttered them (all the way to edges) and toped the non-buttered side with little pieces of gruyere cheese.

Ina used a panini press but I don’t own one (hint: christmas gift). If you are without one as well, heat a pan on medium- not any higher. You want them nice and brown, not black. Place them in the pan and let them brown.

Cut them into halves or fourths.  You can either place them in the soup or serve them along side.

I put on Frank Sinatra pandora, poured myself a glass of red, french wine and flipped through every page of the mega thanksgiving issue of the food network magazine. I highly recommend it.

Here’s the full recipe: