Now that the holidays are over, many of us are looking for meals that are quick, easy and still incredibly satisfying.
One combo that never fails to please is homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese.
Is it because so many of us grew up eating the dynamic duo at school lunchtime? Or maybe it's just because crunchy, melty cheese goes so well with a rich, tomato-y bowl of soup. (Is anything more dunkable?)
This homemade version of the Campbell's classic uses canned tomatoes, with half-and-half adding a creamy, velvety finish. I always add a pinch of hot red pepper flakes for an extra kick, but you can omit if you don't care for spice.
Crispy, homemade, cheddar-coated croutons add both a crunchy texture and wonderful cheesy flavor that will transport you back to childhood. So will a traditional grilled cheese sandwich made with American cheese on white bread.
HOMEMADE TOMATO SOUP
For cheesy croutons
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 tablespoon Dijon or honey mustard
Salt and pepper
4 cups cubed, day-old Italian bread
1/2 cup finely chopped or grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 28-ounce cans Italian plum tomatoes, crushed
1 cup chicken broth
Pinch of red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1 teaspoon celery salt
Pinch of oregano
1 1/2 cups half-and-half or light cream
1 teaspoon sugar or honey, or more to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a cookie sheet.
Prepare croutons: In large bowl, whisk together oil, melted butter and mustard, then season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Add bread cubes and toss to coat. Stir in grated cheese and toss to combine.
Pour croutons on prepared cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, tossing occasionally, until browned and crispy. Remove to a plate or bowl and set aside,.
While croutons are baking, prepare soup. In large Dutch oven or soup pot, melt butter and oil over medium-low heat until it sizzles.
Add onion, and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, stir to combine, then add crushed tomatoes and their juices, chicken broth, a pinch of red pepper flakes and oregano, celery salt and a good grind or two of pepper.
Give it a good stir to combine, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pot occasionally and breaking up the tomatoes with a potato masher or fork.
Stir in the half-and-half or cream and sugar. Using a hand blender, puree the soup until smooth. Or, allow the soup to cool slightly, then puree in batches in a stand blender (make sure to cover the top with a dish towel to avoid hot splashes).
Taste soup, and stir in sugar/honey, along with more hot pepper flakes and salt to taste. Return to medium heat until soup is warmed through, then spoon into warmed bowls. Top with cheesy croutons and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese, and serve.