In a world where soup reigns supreme, every single one has the limelight with their individual historical accolades. Yes, they are all equally as famous, French Onion, Bouillabaisse, Clam Chowder, Chicken Noodle, mentioning a measly few. Each with equal flair and individualistic charisma, deserving a star on the Soup Walk of Fame.
Alongside the traditional Chicken Noodle, Tomato soup has had a long association of childhood memories, paired with its partner in crime, the revolutionary and venerated grilled cheese. Two icons that have long been in the culinary annals since Post WWII, where food institutions matched them together because they provided Vitamin C and both were, and still are, humble and affordable. January is National Soup month and Grilled Cheese is not that far behind, as it falls in April.
You say tomahto, I say tomatoe. It is hard to believe that this vegetable, actually a fruit, was considered poisonous during the Colonial days and no one would consider eating one, as it was thought your blood would turn to acid. No foolin’.
But tomatoes got redemption and they cleared their ill repute going from poison to global obsession, not only for their nutritional value but for their texture and incomparable flavor.
This particular tomato soup is rather avant-garde and it will become a celebrated favorite in you go-to soup arsenal.
5 vine ripened tomatoes – left whole
1 28 oz can of whole San Marzano tomatoes (drained through a colander and their liquid reserved)
2 red bell peppers – left whole
Pinch of Calabrian chili flakes or ½ TSP of Calabrian chili oil (or 1/2 TSP of Aleppo pepper or a pinch of regular red pepper flakes)
1 large red onion – sliced
2 garlic cloves – chopped
1 TSP of fennel seeds
2 TBSP EVOO
2 TBSP Turbinado sugar
1 TSP baking soda
5 cups of low sodium chicken stock
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
Line a roasting pan with foil and spread some olive oil to prevent sticking. Add the whole, drained San Marzanos, fresh tomatoes, the bell peppers and drizzle them well with some EVOO, salt and fresh cracked pepper. Roast in a 350F oven for about 30-40 minutes till soft. With some tongs, place the bell peppers in a paper bag and allow them to sweat for about 15 minutes. This will make for easy removal of their skins. Also remove the skins from the tomatoes.
In a medium sized Dutch oven add some EVOO and sweat the onion with a pinch of salt and the fennel seeds for about 3-4 minutes. Add the Calabrian red pepper flakes and the garlic. Sauté for a few minutes till the onions are transparent and cooked through. Pour the chicken stock (vegetable stock if you’re vegetarian) and the reserved tomato juice and heat up to a simmer. Add the roasted tomatoes and bell peppers and blend with an immersion blender, leaving the soup slightly chunky. Add the Turbinado sugar, baking soda and simmer for about 30 minutes. Adjust seasonings.
Even with the addition of the roasted peppers, this is tomato soup, as the flavor of the bell peppers is extremely subtle. The teaspoon of baking soda helps alkaline the tomatoes.
PIMENTO GRILLED CHEESE
Where would tomato soup be without its revered and infamous grilled cheese companion?
2 cups of sharp cheddar cheese – recommended Dubliner – shredded
1 Jar of roasted bell peppers drained and chopped finely (or roast your own; add 2 additional bell peppers [totaling 4] when you are roasting the tomatoes for the soup)
½ TSP Spanish smoked paprika
½ TSP Sweet Spanish paprika
½ TSP Aleppo pepper
1 garlic clove – very finely minced or ½ TSP of garlic powder
4-5 strips of cooked bacon – crumbled
¼ cup of homemade mayonnaise
Slices of Hallah, country or sourdough bread – cut to about 1” thick
2 TBSP butter room temperature
Some fresh arugula dressed with some EVOO
Thin slices of vine ripened tomatoes
In a bowl add the mayo, garlic, paprika, cheese, chopped roasted peppers, hot sauce, salt, fresh cracked pepper and mix well to obtain a thick paste (add a bit more mayo if it’s too pasty, but be careful with the salt as the cheese is already salty).
Butter the outside of the bread slices, place the pimento cheese mixture on top of one slice, top with very thin slices of tomatoes, the crushed bacon and the arugula. Place the other slice on top, with a bit of mayo and carefully slide it onto a griddle or a frying pan over medium heat. Grill the bottom for about 1 minute (being careful not to burn the bread). Turn over to toast the other side for a minute, using a spatula a few times to press down on the bread as it cooks. Add about 2-3 TBSP of water to the pan or grill and cover with a lid, as this will allow the cheese to melt quicker.