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Food + Drink Recipes

The Perfect Cold-Weather Recipe: Creamy Tomato-Basil Soup and Grilled Cheese

November 11, 2020

The trees are nearly bare and the sun is setting before dinner, which means it’s time for some good old-fashioned, warm-you-from-the-inside comfort food — like this creamy tomato-basil soup paired with a gooey, melty grilled cheese

By Kirsten Johnson

A perfect fall lunch for me is the classic pairing of tomato soup and grilled cheese. But don’t we deserve better than the congealed, condensed tomato soup from our youth? Here is my recipe for a super quick, simple (no, really!) customizable creamy tomato-basil soup using canned diced tomatoes. Swap out the cream for dairy-free creamer (or leave it out altogether) and you’ve got an easy vegan soup. My go-to is So Delicious brand coconut creamer. 

I’ll throw in a few tips for the perfect, melty grilled cheese too, whether you want to keep it simple or kick it up a notch. 

Tomato-basil soup

Ingredients:

  • Olive Oil
  • ¾ c. rough chopped celery
  • ¾ c. rough chopped onion
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • 3 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • ½ c. chopped fresh basil leaves
  • ¼-½ c. heavy cream or non-dairy creamer (optional)

Directions:

Heat a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat and drizzle about 1 Tbsp. of olive oil into the pan. If you are oil free, you can use a few tablespoons of water here. 

Because you’re going to be blending everything, there’s no need to get a chef-swoon-worthy perfect dice with the celery and onions. You want them to cook relatively quickly, though, so keep that in mind when chopping them up. Toss them in the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes, until they no longer look raw. 

Add garlic to taste. Again, you can rough chop or, like I prefer, grate on a microplane grater. Stir for about 30 seconds or until garlic becomes fragrant. 

Add cans of tomatoes. You can change it up here depending on what you’re in the mood for. Plain diced tomatoes, seasoned with garlic and basil, or go wild and spice it up with some Mexican-style tomatoes if you’re feeling adventurous. I usually do a combination of plain and seasoned or whatever I have on hand. You can really customize this to whatever suits your mood that day. Ditch the basil for cilantro and use all Mexican-spiced tomatoes for a quick side soup on taco Tuesday. Throw in a can of green chiles or some chipotle chilis for heat.

Let it simmer, until onions and celery are fully cooked, about 5 to 10 minutes. Roughly chop basil and add to soup. 

Now it’s time to blend! I turn to my trusty immersion blender. Whenever you’re blending a sauce or soup, this thing makes it so much easier. If you don’t have one, carefully transfer soup to a blender. It’s a good idea to let it cool for a few minutes before blending. Remove the center cap from the lid and secure it to the blender. Place a towel over the hole and hold in place while blending. This allows the steam to escape and prevents any explosions. 

After the soup is blended, return to the pot if you used a blender. Now add salt, pepper and cream to taste. If using, I usually start with about ¼ cup cream and taste it. If you have time, add extra cream and let the soup cook down for a while, making it extra rich and decadent.

Grilled Cheese

For classic grilled cheese you just need three things: bread, cheese and butter (or oil). Here are some tricks of the trade to help you achieve that gooey deliciousness you’re after, whether you’re using dairy cheese or a non-dairy alternative.  

While you can butter the bread, I prefer just to put it in the pan. Heat a nonstick skillet or griddle over medium-low heat and melt 1-2 Tbsp. of butter. I love Miyoko’s European-style non-dairy butter as my preferred vegan version.

Place both pieces of bread in the pan — we’re grilling open-faced! Now here’s the real trick: top each slice with about ¼ c. of your preferred GRATED cheese. It melts faster and more evenly than overlapped slices. Of course, you can always pile more on there, but this amount works for me. If you’re adding tomato, etc., put the cheese on top. 

Cover the pan with either a lid or piece of foil and let it hang out, checking every 30 seconds or so. Obviously you want the cheese to melt but you don’t want the bread to burn. I find all stoves are different, so it’s best to keep an eye on things. The cheese will continue to melt when you put the sandwich together so you can take it out a little before it’s fully melted. 

If you’re feeling fancy, here is a recipe for a simple aioli you can put on the bread before topping with cheese. You might be thinking, “Mayo on a grilled cheese?!?!?!” Absolutely.

Onion-Shallot Aioli

Serving Size: 3-4 sandwiches

Ingredients: 

  • ¼ c. mayo or vegan mayo
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice 
  • 1 large garlic clove, grated on a microplane
  • 1 green onion, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. shallot, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Fresh Chef Detroit Kirsten Johnson

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