This past Saturday, while dipping a freshly-baked pumpkin donut into my morning coffee, I brainstormed lunch ideas for family in town. For inspiration, I drove up Route 44 to Lapsley Orchard where I was greeted by a live folk band, made-to-order caramel apples and a BBQ food truck. Instead of apple picking this time, I decided to walk around the grounds, grab some gourds, pastel pumpkins, a chunk of sharp Vermont cheddar, and the last tomatoes of the season. As I drove home with lunch on my mind, I cranked my oven, and started chopping while awaiting my guests.
While I always enjoy spoonfuls of classic tomato soup with toasty grilled cheese on a crisp day, I decided to add a little creativity with a heartier, aromatic spin. I roasted the tomatoes with carrots and onions which allowed the flavors to become much more concentrated and sweet. Since it’s always about presentation, I decided to transform the ultimate grilled cheese into cute, mini croutons. To do so, I covered my caste iron skillet with butter and generously sliced large chunks of cheddar cheese for each buttery slice of brioche. The cheesy, decadent cubes were so cute bobbing up and down in the orangey liquid. I think it’s okay to eat more than just one. . . or a few.
Velvety Roasted Tomato and Carrot Soup
8 vine-ripened tomatoes, quartered
4 carrots, peeled and cut into thick biases
1 yellow onion, cut into large wedges
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 T fresh thyme
1 t paprika
1/2 c chopped fresh basil
2 c chicken stock
salt and pepper throughout
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
On an oiled baking sheet, toss the tomatoes, carrots, onions, generously with EVOO, salt and pepper and thyme. Roast for 35-40 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and golden brown, turning occasionally.
Heat a large pot on medium heat. Pour 1 T EVOO inside and add the garlic. Sautee for 1 minute then pour in the roasted vegetables, paprika, chicken stock, and bring to a simmer. When the baking sheet is cool enough, add the scraped roasting bits as well. Let simmer for at least 15 minutes, then add 1/4 c chopped basil. Puree the soup in a blender in multiple batches. When blending, fill the blender halfway with the vegetable mixture to create a smooth puree. Pour the pureed liquid into a large bowl and continue with the remaining soup. Return the pureed soup to the large pot and let simmer for 5 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with remaining fresh basil and serve with Mini Grilled Cheese Croutons. Serves 6
Mini Grilled Cheese Croutons
4 T unsalted butter, softened
4 slices brioche, crusts cut off
4 T Dijon mustard
4 oz Cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
Heat a skillet on medium heat.Spread the softened butter onto one side of each piece of bread and arrange on a flat surface, buttered sides down. Spread 1 T Dijon mustard onto two pieces of bread. Evenly distribute the cheese on top of the two pieces, and then place the other two pieces of bread on top, buttered sides up.
Grill the two sandwiches in the skillet for about 2-3 minutes and then flip with a spatula. Grill for another 2-3 minutes until the toasty sandwiches are nicely golden brown and the cheese is melted inside. Remove to a cutting board, cut into 1-inch cubes, and float a few in bowls of the Velvety Roasted Tomato and Carrot Soup.
Crunchy crouton sandwiches oozing with melty cheese, I wonder what Marni will think of next!