It's that time of year where everyone is looking for recipes to use up their bountiful tomato harvest. Except me. I'm literally the worst gardener. Thanks to my mother-in-law and local Farmers Market, I can benefit from those who naturally have a green thumb. I'm too busy trying to keep two little boys alive to worry about growing plants right now. But that's a story for another day. While I can't grow tomatoes to save my life, I do know how to cook them!
Grilled cheese and tomato soup has always been a comfort food for me. My husband and I practically survived on it in college. While I still have a place in my heart for good ol' canned tomato soup, this recipe definitely takes this time-honored classic to another level.
Roasting the tomatoes with rich aromatics like thyme, onions, garlic, and red bell peppers adds a depth of flavor that will give you a whole new perception of tomato soup. Using the ripest tomatoes and bell peppers possible gives this soup the perfect amount of sweetness that balances out with the saltiness of the Irish cheddar. Add in some perfectly toasted homemade (by some lovely baker, not me) roasted garlic sourdough to round out this hearty fall meal.
Roasted Tomato Soup
I tend to eyeball this recipe more often than not. I arrange a couple onions and bell peppers on 2 sheet pans, add some whole garlic cloves and fill in the rest of the space with tomatoes. Drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and add some fresh thyme sprigs. It's not an exact science and I enjoy seeing how different each batch turns out depending on the ingredients and quantities I use.
Roasting the veggies can take a little while but it's so worth the wait to let them get to caramelized perfection. I like to squeeze the juice and the majority of the seeds out of the tomatoes before roasting. Doing this lets the flavor of the vegetables really shine without being watered down. I simmer the tomato juice on the stove while the veggies are roasting and let it reduce by about a third.
Once the veggies are roasted, throw away the thyme sprigs, and toss the veggies in the blender with the reduced tomato juice. Blend it all together, add in some milk and sour cream, taste it, and season it to your liking. You can certainly use any blender but I love my Vitamix for making soup. It blends up these veggies into smooth, creamy perfection. Sometimes tomato soup can be a little acidic. If it is, add in a teaspoon of honey and it will smooth it out perfectly. If you make too much, it freezes beautifully in quart-size zippered bags.
Sourdough Grilled Cheese
I've always had my own way of making grilled cheese. I don't know if it's the "right" way but it always works for me. First, you have to start with good ingredients. For this recipe I chose a roasted garlic sourdough bread and Irish cheddar cheese but you can use classic sourdough bread and cheddar too. My next tip is to melt the butter before spreading it on the bread. This helps get an even coating of butter and doesn't compromise the integrity of the bread.
I don't often use the phrase "too much cheese" but there is definitely a fine line between not enough and too much on a grilled cheese. Not enough, and you have a sad sandwich. Too much, and it's a gloppy mess. You want just enough to completely cover the inside of the sandwich with gooey, melty cheese with just a little bit that trickles down the sides and cooks into those addictive little crispy cheese bits on the outside of the sandwich.
This is where I might get in trouble with the grilled cheese snobs - I start with a cold pan. *gasp* I find that starting with a cold pan allows the cheese to get nice and melted without over-toasting the bread. I also like to use a sheet pan about the same size as my griddle to squish the sandwiches down a bit, kind of like a panini press. You don't want to smash them too hard, just enough to make sure that melted butter gets in all the nooks and crannies of your bread to ensure toasted perfection. Once it's done, dip it in your freshly made tomato soup for a classic combo. Don't forget to snatch all the crispy cheese bits off the pan and save them for yourself. Enjoy!
Roasted Tomato Soup with Sourdough Grilled Cheese
- 3 lb small vine-ripened tomatoes, cored and cut in half lengthwise
- 2 red bell peppers, cut in half lengthwise
- 2 yellow onions, cut in half lengthwise
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled and ends cut off
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
- ½ cup sour cream
- ½ cup milk
- 1 teaspoon honey (optional - add if your soup tastes a little too acidic)
- fresh parmesan cheese, finely grated
- 1 loaf sourdough bread, sliced (I used roasted garlic sourdough)
- 12 oz Irish cheddar cheese, sliced or grated
- 4 tablespoon butter, melted
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 2 large sheet pans with foil and spray with olive oil.
- Arrange bell pepper and onion halves on sheet pan, cut side down.
- Squeeze juice and seeds from tomato into a small saucepan. Then place tomato halves cut side down on foil-lined pan. I used approximately 3 lb of tomatoes, but you want enough to fill 2 sheet pans with some space in between them. Using smaller, vine-ripened tomatoes will make your soup more flavorful. Add garlic cloves and thyme sprigs among the vegetables.
- Drizzle olive oil over vegetables and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Roast at 325°F for 60-90 minutes or until juices on sheet pan begin to carmelize and tomatoe skins begin to brown on top. While vegetables are roasting, simmer the tomato juice on very low heat. Watch carefully so it doesn't burn. Remove from heat if juice has reduced by a third or more.
- Remove vegetables from oven. Discard thyme sprigs. Add roasted vegetables and cooked tomato juice to blender. Blend on high until soup has reached a very smooth consistency. Add in sour cream and milk and blend until combined. Taste the soup and add salt, pepper, and honey if desired. Soup may be hot enough at this point. If not, pour into a pot and heat on the stove until it starts bubbling.
- While vegetables are roasting, prepare grilled cheese. Spread melted butter onto bread slices using a pastry brush. Divide cheese evenly among bottom slices of bread. Top with another slice of bread.
- Arrange sandwiches onto cold griddle. Turn heat onto medium. Allow sandwiches to heat up with the pan. This ensures the cheese melts before the sandwich gets too done on the outside. Use a sheet pan to press sandwiches or use a panini press.
- Cook for 10-15 minutes or until bottom side is golden brown before flipping. Cook an additional 5-10 minutes or until other side is golden brown.
- Divide soup among 6 bowls and top with parmesan cheese. Serve sandwiches alongside soup. Enjoy!
- Add cooled soup to quart-size zippered bag. Freeze flat on a sheet pan. Can be stored frozen up to 6 months.