Dunking a hot grilled cheese in comforting tomato soup is as classic as it gets. Or course Ina thought up the idea to make croutons out of the grilled cheese. This vegetarian meal is perfect for the current cold weather. The soup is flavored with saffron, which is a pricey ingredient, but so worth it. There are very few ingredients in the entire recipe, so a little splurge on the saffron won't hurt too much. I made the recipe exactly as written, except I used extra sharp cheddar instead of Gruyere. This will be on heavy rotation for the coming months.
Barefoot Contessa Foolproof 2012
serves 4 to 6
For the soup:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
4 cups chicken stock
1 - 28oz can crushed tomatoes
Large pinch of saffron threads (in the spice aisle)
1/2 cup orzo
1/2 cup heavy cream
For the croutons:
4 slices country white or sourdough bread
2 tablespoon melted butter
4 oz Gruyere cheese, grated (I used cheddar)
In a large pot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion 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 pot with water, add 2 teaspoons salt, and bring to a boil. Add the zoo 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 soup to a simmer, and cook for 10 more minutes, stirring frequently.
Heat a panini grill.* Place the four 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 the cheese on two of the slices. Place the remaining two slices on top of the cheese, buttered sides up.
Grill the sandwiches for about 5 minutes, until nicely browned. place on a cutting board, allow to rest for 1 minute, and cut into 1 inch cubes.
Serve soup hot with the croutons scattered on top.
*If you do not have a panini grill, use a frying pan and place a plate on top of the sandwich. Turn the sandwich over once toasted on one side and repeat on the other until cheese is melted and both sides are nicely browned.