Soup for the sick

Fridge, empty.  Spirit, low.  That’s the state I found myself yesterday morning when I woke up with a sore throat.  As I refused to leave the flat, I turned to the canned goods in my pantry for sustenance.  There’s nothing like a can of tomato soup during your bleakest moment; hot, heavenly and soul soothing.  (And a touch too salty but beggars can’t be choosers here).

ISO 100 | f3.5 | 1/8 sec | 25mm

When I’m not in a desperate state I prefer to make my own soup (pictured above). There’s something satisfying with all the stirring and the act of adding a pinch of this and a pinch of that to taste.  Much like a witch with her cauldron in fact…

The tomato soup recipe I turn to is always Barbara Lynch’s spicy tomato soup with crispy grilled cheese.  I love the heat it gives off, not enough to breathe fire but enough to wake you up, and you can never really go wrong with a grilled cheese/tomato soup combo. 

As a side note – for those of you who live in Boston or are planning to visit I highly recommend trying one of Barbara Lynch’s restaurants.  B&G Oysters is great for seafood lovers, the Butcher Shop is a dream for carnivores, Sportello offers the best tagliatelle bolognese I’ve ever had.  If you’re looking to splash out, I hear Menton is excellent.  Needless to say, she is by far my favorite chef in Beantown.

Spicy Tomato Soup w/ Crispy Grilled Cheese (serves 6)

Soup ingredients:
2 tbsp evoo
1 small onion, sliced
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 400 ml can plum tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
salt & ground black pepper to taste
6 tbsp creme fraiche (optional but highly recommended)

Grilled cheese ingredients:
good country, italian, or french bread
1 1/2 tbsp caraway seeds
8 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 lb Morbier or other good melting cheese (fontina, gruyere, mimolette)

Directions:
Heat the olive oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender, about 7 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and 1 1/2 cups water and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.  Add the basil, season lightly with salt & pepper, and let cool briefly before pureeing the soup in a food processor or a blender.  Pass the soup through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing on the solids with a ladle.  Keep the soup on medium-low heat if you plan to serve it right away.

For the grilled cheese: Cut the bread into very thin slices.  Heat a small, dry skillet over medium heat.  Add the caraway seeds and toast until fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Transfer seeds to a bowl.  Melt the butter in the same skilled, let it cool a bit then add 1 tablespoon of the toasted caraway seeds.

Heat the oven to 400 °F (205 °C).  Have ready two baking sheets of the same size.  Line one with a sheet of parchment paper.  Brush 6 of the bread slices with the melted butter and lay them on the parchment-lined baking sheet.  Top each with a single layer of cheese (thinly sliced) and then top with another slice of buttered bread to make sandwiches.  Put the sandwiches on the prepared baking sheet, leaving some space between them.  Cover the sandwiches with a piece of parchment and stack the second baking sheet on top of the first; this will cook the sandwiches on both sides without the need to flip them and will also flatten them a bit.  Bake until the sandwiches are golden brown and crisp, about 15-20 minutes.  Carefully peel away the top layer of parchment, transfer the sandwiches to a cooling rack, and serve warm or at room temperature.

To serve, divide the soup among the bowls.  Float a tablespoon of creme fraiche on top of the soup, if you like, and garnish with some of the reserved toasted caraway seeds.  Position a grilled cheese sandwich across the top of the bowl, if it fits without falling in, or beside the bowl and serve.

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