The first cold front of the year just blew in, or as we Texans call it – 70 degrees. That might not seem too cool to you, but compared to 100 degree September days, it's down right chilly, and has the Starving Artist in a soup kind of mood. Granted, it's still not officially soup weather, but practice makes perfect, and this Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons is as close to perfection as you can get. I wish I could say that about my life.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, peeled, halved, and sliced thinly
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes
- 1 & 1/2 cups water
- 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, or to taste
- 4 slices rustic white bread
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 4 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
- Neutral oil, such as grapeseed or canola
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, beginning to brown, and very tender – about 10 minutes.
- Stir in the tomatoes and their juices, plus the water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes.
- Next, add the basil, salt, and balsamic vinegar, then remove from the heat and let cool for about 5 minutes.
- Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large, heatproof bowl. Using a blender, puree the soup in batches until smooth. Pour the blended soup through the strainer, pressing on the solids with a rubber spatula or ladle; discard the solids. Taste the soup, andseason to tastewith additional salt and vinegar as needed.
- Now on to the croutons. Brush melted butter on one side of each slice of bread, making certain to cover the entire surface. Turn the slices over, and pile Gruyère on two of the slices, the close up your sandwiches with the other slices.
- Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat, barely coat the pan with a drizzle of neutral oil, and cook the grilled cheese sandwiches for about 2 minutes per side, or until the cheese has melted and the bread is crusty and deep golden brown. For the best results, press down on the sandwiches with a second cast-iron skillet to mimic a panini press while they cook.
- Allow the sandwiches to rest for a minute or two, and then cut into square crouton-sized pieces. Reheat the soup as necessary, ladle into bowls, and garnish with achiffonade of basil, grilled cheese croutons, and freshly cracked black pepper.