Tomato Basil Soup with Caprese Grilled Cheese

Winter often signifies the time we all want nothing more than to cozy up inside and indulge in heavier, comforting meals. Yet a wintertime diet of comfort food, often doesn’t bode well for those new year’s resolutions and fitness pledges we made earlier this month. So why can’t we have both? Warm, homemade comfort foods that consist of fresh, healthy ingredients. Ingredients that won’t cause a jump in the number on the scale. One that we often rationalize as a mere side effect of those heavier sweaters that appear in our wardrobe in the colder months. Sweaters don’t weigh five pounds, friends. I think we can all admit that. But I have a solution. Why not use all that produce and fresh herbs that we adored in the summertime to create a meal that satisfies those winter cravings. And here we have it. The classic tomato soup dressed up with fresh basil and roasted red peppers. This soup is a perfect Sunday afternoon recipe that will last all week long, and only get better as the flavors settle in. And what better way to complement tomato soup than with its classic counterpart, the grilled cheese. Yet this grilled cheese is a bit fancier than its Kraft cheese relative. Taking inspiration from a caprese salad, this sandwich features fresh mozzarella, ripe tomatoes and homemade pesto. It’s great for dipping in your homemade soup, but it’s also great on its own. So enjoy your snowy afternoon in with some comfort food …without the guilt.

Ingredients:

Tomato Soup:

  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup onion, chopped finely
  • 1 quart cherry tomatoes
  • 2/3 cup roasted red peppers
  • 1 14oz  can fire roasted chopped tomatoes
  • 2/3 cups fat free chicken broth
  • 1 14 oz can diced stewed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons 2% milk
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped finely
Pesto:
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 fresh parmesan
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 5-6 tablespoons olive oil
Sandwiches: for 1 sandwich (can be duplicated for multiple servings)
  • 2 slices Whole Grain bread
  • 1-2 slices fresh mozzarella
  • 1 slice tomato
  • 3 tablespoons pesto
  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter or margarine

Preparation:

For the Soup:

  1. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium low heat
  2. Add minced garlic and let cook for 1 minute
  3. Add chopped onion and let cook until onions are tender
  4. Add cherry tomatoes and let cook until tomatoes are soft, mash tomatoes with a potato masher or the back of a large wooden spoon
  5. Transfer tomato mixture into food processor and process until smooth, transfer mixture back into pot and simmer over medium low heat
  6. Place roasted red peppers & fire roasted tomatoes in food processor and process until smooth, but let a few chunks remain in order to add texture to the soup
  7. Pour red peppers & tomatoes into pot
  8. Stir in chicken broth and let mixture simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  9. In the meantime, drain stewed tomatoes until no liquid remains, and add to pot
  10. Stir in milk and sprinkle in fresh basil; add salt & pepper to taste

For the pesto sandwiches:

  1. In a food processor, grind all pesto ingredients together until mixture resembles a thick paste; add more olive oil as needed
  2. Take two pieces of whole grain bread and spread inside with pesto
  3. Layer tomato and fresh mozzarella on bread and spread outside with vegan butter or margarine
  4. Grill sandwiches for 2-3 minutes on each side, until cheese is melted and bread is golden brown
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