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Monday, February 18, 2013

Giving Campbell's A Run For Its Money

You know me.  I spend the winter months complaining about how cold it is.  I probably also spend the whole summer complaining that it's too hot.  Let's face it, as a matter of weather, I can't be satisfied.

Lucky for me that I really like winter food.  I love all the stews and braises.  And I really love soup.  What's not to love?

But I have to admit, that as much as I love soup, I've never really bothered to learn how to make tomato soup.  I grew up on Campbell's, and I guess I just always figured that it was the gold standard when it came to tomato soup.

Of course, I was wrong.  Real, homemade tomato soup is so much more delicious.  And for all of you health conscious types out there, the homemade version nixes the preservatives and other stuff that they don't like to sell at Whole Foods.  In short, while certainly not a diet food, homemade tomato soup is probably better for you than its canned cousin.

This is a pretty easy recipe too.  Not quite as easy as opening a can, but easy nonetheless.  I skipped the grilled cheese croutons in favor of making actual grilled cheese sandwiches, because I could never be happy with just a crouton when it comes to grilled cheese.

Recipe:  Easy Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Croutons/Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
(Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust, 2012 by Ina Garten)

*Note:  I followed the instructions for the croutons but served the sandwiches instead.


3 tablespoons good 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 below)


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 1 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/Sandwiches scattered on top.

Grilled Cheese Croutons/Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
(Makes 4 sandwiches)

*Note:  If you are making croutons, half this recipe to make 2 whole sandwiches.

8 (1/2-inch-thick) slices country white bread
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
8 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated

Heat a panini grill. Place the eight 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 Gruyere on four of the slices. Place the remaining four slices of bread on top of the Gruyere, buttered sides up.

Grill the sandwiches on the panini grill for about 5 minutes, until nicely browned. Place on a cutting board, allow to rest for 1 minute and cut into 1-inch cubes if serving as croutons.

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