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Humdrum Summer Lazy Food: Spicy Tomato Soup with Crispy Grilled Cheese

3.June 2011

It’s Summer now, shockingly, and I’m asking myself where Spring got to.  Maybe I can blame this on stress or my generally ebbing mojo (particularly ebbing cooking mojo – I’ve made chicken and broccoli pasta maybe fifty times in the last three months), or maybe Boston’s overnight zero-to-sixty-Winter-to-Summer attitude that makes me feel like we didn’t have any Spring at all.  And then there were the tornadoes in Massachusetts.  Yes.  You read that right.  Tornadoes.  In Massachusetts.  I thought that’s why I left the Midwest.

Anyway.  Blah blah excuses blah.  This Spring’s lack of cooking energy has, however inspired me to try out some New Simple Recipes, since I haven’t been in the mood for Big Complicated Recipes (too bad about my 30/30 resolutions of Baumkuchen and puff pastry – there’s always Fall).

A couple weeks ago, my dear sister and her sweet husband came over for dinner (part of their Christmas gift – the other part involved going to see Bridesmaids, which I recommend you do immediately if you have anything like a sense of humor) and I made – dundunDUN – Broccoli and Chicken Pasta (lazy).  After beating myself up a little bit about that laziness and how I really should be cooking something special because they’re moving and how many more times will I even get to cook for them and blah blah blah, I decided to make a starter.  And a dessert.  More on that dessert later. (Rapture!  And not in the Harold Camping way.)

For the starter, I cracked open dear, blessed, sweet, ingenious Barbara Lynch’s Stir and found the recipe for a certain Spicy Tomato Soup about which I have a tendency to swoon and wax poetic whenever I eat it.  I thought to myself, that’s a special dish for my special sister and her special husband.  So, I took a look at the recipe and lo! and behold! it’s lazy soup!  And I know what you’re thinking – with her date stuffed gnocchi and homemade steak sauce and hand torn homemade pasta, Barbara Lynch might not be your go to girl for a lazy, uninspired cooking mood.  But I promise!  This soup has FIVE ingredients (and one optional) and it’s stupidly easy to make.  MAYBE thirty minutes start to finish.  And it can be made ahead!  And it reheats beautifully!  And it brings a glistening tear of joy to everyone’s eye!

Anyway. Enough.  Here’s what to do next time you’re bummed, but hungry.

Spicy Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 t crushed red pepper – This is where you have some control over the heat.  Use 1/2 t if cooking for non-spicy people, amp it up to 1 1/2 for spice lovers.  I found 1 t to be on the hot side of perfect, but obviously you could go either way.
  • 2 28 ounce cans tomatoes (I used Cento crushed tomatoes)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves (feel free to use more!)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 c heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 c water
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan.  Cook onion and red pepper flakes until the onion is tender and the whole thing smells a bit spicy (5-8 minutes).
  2. Add the tomatoes and water and cook for about a half hour.
  3. Add the basil, some salt and pepper and let cool for a few minutes.
  4. Puree the soup in a blender or food processor, or with an immersion blender.  (Pro tip: Don’t try to fill your blender more than halfway while blending.  It WILL explode and burn you.  Trust me.)
  5. IF you want to get fancy, put the whole thing through a fine mesh sieve.  I didn’t.  Because I’m not fancy.
  6. Add the cream and check seasoning.  Chill until ready to serve.

Grilled Cheese

  • bread
  • butter
  • cheese

**I’m not going to insult your intelligence by writing a recipe for grilled cheese.  Instead, I will give you my tips, honed over a period of about twenty years, during which I’ve made more grilled cheeses (after school, before bed, for the occasional breakfast, sometimes as a lazy dinner for my whole family) than can decently be counted.

  1. Use lots of butter.  Both in the pan and on your bread.  You can’t use too much butter.  Really.
  2. When serving with soup, thinner is better.  I sliced a baguette into about 1/4″ thick diagonal slices.  I made two sandwiches of this size for each diner.
  3. Use cheese you like.  Use quality cheese that won’t disintegrate.  I used Gruyere.
  4. Apply pressure to the sandwich while cooking both sides.  This will help the cheese adhere to both pieces of bread and encourage the bread to brown in all that good butter you’ve used.  What you’re going for is crispy (not soggy!) golden-brown fried bread with gooey melted cheese on the inside.  Keep that in mind.
  5. Be careful when flipping the sandwich from the first cooked side to the uncooked side.  No one likes a misaligned grilled cheese.  And your cheese will burn.
9 Comments leave one →
  1. 3.June 2011 10:38

    Squee! Darby – I’ve been wondering where you’ve been/missing your tasty posts/photos. Glad you’re back with delicious vengeance! This looks amazing, btw.

    • Darby O'Shea permalink*
      3.June 2011 10:40

      Aw, thanks! And, btw, it was amazing. Do it. Immediately.

  2. 3.June 2011 10:52

    Thank goodness – someone else out there also has a list of their personal techniques for making grilled cheese … and gets how perfect it is as a midnight snack. Buttering the bread is key, I think. A havarti and romano cheese combination is my personal favorite at the moment. Also sprinkling a little ground pepper and sea salt on the cheese before closing up the sandwich to melt.

    • Darby O'Shea permalink*
      3.June 2011 11:11

      Havarti is one of my very favorite cheeses, but I do NOT like dill havarti. It distracts from the buttery flavor of the cheese. And I use romano almost completely to the exclusion of parmesan in my kitchen. Have a go at fontina in a grilled cheese sometime – it’s like a hybrid of romano and fontina in some ways. Hard, but softer than romano, buttery like havarti, but less mild. Mmmm. Cheese.

      • 3.June 2011 12:12

        Oh, creamy havarti for grilled cheese – no dill – absolutely. I totally agree. Thanks for the tip about fontina, too!

  3. 3.June 2011 11:07

    I must make this soon. I loooove tomato soup with grilled cheese, and spicy tomato soup sounds even more scrumptious. Thumbs up on the gruyère choice. It is indeed the king of melting cheeses.

    • Darby O'Shea permalink*
      3.June 2011 11:11

      Yeah. This soup is to die for. I wonder if it might also be delicious cold for the hotter months? Hm.

  4. wjh permalink
    4.June 2011 12:44

    sounds really good! and i always have all of those things in the kitchen.
    which one’s the optional ingredient?

    • Darby O'Shea permalink*
      5.June 2011 21:13

      In the original recipe, there was an optional creme fraiche. I used heavy cream, which is also optional, but I don’t know why you would leave it out. This soup would also be sensational with a spoonful of Schmand stirred in.

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