Tuesday, June 14, 2011

It Wasn't Like This When I Was a Kid!

Some days all you crave and want to eat is some delicious comfort food. For me, my favorite was always grilled cheese sandwiches and cream of tomato soup. I’ve decided to recreate my favorite childhood comfort food into a tasty and fun appetizer! 

I’ve pumped up the flavor and spice of the simple tomato soup and turned it into a Zesty Tomato Soup.  The grilled cheese is made with a little basil on the inside and some dark pumpernickel bread to give it a nice twist. And to serve them, I have the soup in little shot glasses and the grilled cheese cut into cute sticks perfect for dipping and munching. Oh, it is so tasty and fun to eat.

I love when I can play with my food…….even as an adult. You can make them for yourself or for a party of your favorite friends. Just relax and enjoy my Zesty Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Sticks. Childhood never tasted so good!

And here are the recipes!
Zesty Tomato Soup

1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons butter
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 stalk celery, diced
1 small carrot, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup vegetable broth
1 teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (you can add more if you like it spicier)
¼ teaspoon Chipotle chili powder (you can add more if you like it spicier)
½ teaspoon Paprika
1/2 cup heavy cream, optional
Salt/pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Strain the chopped canned tomatoes, reserving the juices, and spread onto a baking sheet, season with salt and pepper, to taste and roast until caramelized, about 15 -20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the celery, carrot, onion and garlic; cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the roasted chopped canned tomatoes, reserved tomato juices, vegetable broth, bay leaf and spices. Simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Puree with a hand held immersion blender until smooth. Stir in the cream, if using. Salt and pepper to taste.

To Serve
The soup can be enjoyed the usual way in bowls. But I like to serve them in cute 2-3 oz. tall shot glasses as an appetizer. You can best fill the glasses by using a small funnel and poring the soup in. Serve hot in the shot glasses with a Grilled Cheese Stick on the side and enjoy.

Grilled Cheese Sticks
6 pieces Pumpernickel bread (any bread will do though)
3 pieces sliced Havarti cheese
3 pieces sliced Provolone cheese
Fresh basil (4-6 pieces)
¼ cup melted butter for bread

Heat a griddle or frying pan on medium to medium-high heat. Spread the melted butter on one side of each of the pieces of bread. Place one buttered side down on the griddle or frying pan, layer 1 slice of Havarti and one slice of provolone on each, top with a piece of basil or two (as you like it) and the other piece of buttered bread (buttered side up). Cook till each side is crispy and the cheese is melted inside.

To Serve
You can enjoy this as a regular grilled cheese sandwich cut into two and served with a bowl of the Zesty Tomato Soup. But I like to serve these sliced into long thin sticks (crusts on or off as you like) and with a nice shot glass of the Zesty Tomato Soup as a delicious appetizer.

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