Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Spiced-Up Grilled Cheese and Creamy Tomato-Leek Soup

This was the best grilled cheese and tomato soup I have ever had.  Okay, let's be honest, I've only ever had grilled cheese with velveeta and tomato soup out of a can, so I could only do better.  This soup was very easy to make (except you need a food processor or blender to make it "creamy") and tasted so much better than anything you can get out of a can.  The sandwich was also excellent; I did, however, add some pepperoni which isn't in the original recipe.  I highly recommend this for a cold afternoon or evening.

Spiced-Up Grilled Cheese
1 6 ounce can tomato paste
3 T chopped canned chipotle chilies
1 T mild-flavored (light) molasses
12 3/4-inch-thick slices sourdough bread
18 ounces extra-sharp New York cheddar cheese, thinly sliced
4 plum tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves (WOOPS, somehow I missed this, I will add it next time)
olive oil for brushing the griddle or grill pan

1. Blend the tomato paste, chilies, and molasses in processor until smooth.  Spread 1 T chipotle mixture over 1 side of each bread slice.
2. Arrange 6 bread slices, chipotle side up, on work surface.  Divide half of cheese among bread slices.  Top with tomatoes, onion, cilantro and remaining cheese.  Top sandwiches with remaining bread, chipotle side down.
3. Brush grill pan lightly with oil and heat over medium heat.  Place sandwiches on grill pan and cook until bread is golden and cheese is melted, about 5 minutes per side.

Creamy Tomato-Leek Soup
1 T unsalted butter
1 T, plus 2 t extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
3 leeks, divided (2 thinly sliced half moons and 1 thinly sliced lengthwise)
3 garlic cloves, smashed
3 14-ounce cans of whole tomatoes
1 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 T sugar
1/4 t crushed red pepper
1/4 t celery seed
1/4 t dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter in the olive oil.  Add the sliced half moons of leeks and smashed garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the tomatoes and their juice, the water, heavy cream, sugar, crushed red pepper, celery seed and oregano and season with salt and pepper.  Bring the soup to a boil over high heat, breaking up the tomatoes with the back of a spoon.  Reduce the heat to moderate and simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Working in batches, transfer the tomato soup to a blender and puree until smooth (I used a food processor).  Return the soup to a clean pot and rewarm the soup if necessary.  Season the soup with salt and pepper.
4. In a small saucepan, heat the remaining two teaspoons of oil over moderate heat.  Add the remaining sliced leeks and cook, stirring every so ofter until browned and crispy.

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