Creamy Tomato Basil Soup and Basil Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

11 Aug

Even in the summer, I can’t help but crave piping hot soup. I love soup. In fact, it’s my favorite food. Yes, it really is. I think it’s because it’s really the one dish that can be made so many different ways out of so many different ingredients — isn’t that the idea behind “stone soup”? But seriously, soup is comforting every time. And when you’re lucky enough to be sitting in an air conditioned home, then it really doesn’t matter if it’s 90 degrees outside. When I was younger I used to have these “episodes” (I guess one could call them that) where I needed to have soup, like, on our way up to the White Mountains to go hiking, I’d suddenly need soup — mid-drive. My mom is the same way, it’s very much like, “Pull the car over at the next restaurant! I need soup!” It got to the point once when we would bring thermoses of soup if we were going on long weekend or day trips. My mom calls these episodes “soup attacks.” They seem to be less frequent these days, I don’t know why, but neither of us is ever far from the urge to make or eat soup, regardless.

That being said, it’d been a while, but this little concoction came about when I was having a soup attack. I didn’t even know it until after I was done eating, of course, when I’d successfully licked the bowl clean. This soup is thick and smooth in flavor, thanks to the addition of cashew cream. The use of whole tomatoes makes it just a bit chunky and hearty, the way I like tomato soup to be. The beauty of this soup is that you can make it as chunky or smooth as you’d like, it’s just a matter of blending less or more. I used only half a cup of basil, but you can use more if you want a stronger basil flavor.

The beautiful grilled cheese is the usual salty, cheesy goodness that compliments any tomato soup well. Is there anything Daiya can’t do? I doubt it.

Ingredients:
(makes 6.5 cups)

Tomato Basil Soup

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tomatoes, diced
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1/3 cup water
1 cup cashew cream
1/2 – 1 cup fresh basil, chopped
Salt and coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
Parsley, for garnish

Basil Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
(makes 1 sandwich)

2 slices whole wheat bread
2 tbsp Earth Balance butter, divided
1/2 cup Daiya Vegan Cheese Shreds (cheddar or mozzarella)
2 large fresh basil leaves

Directions:

For the soup: Add a little salt to a large stock pot and heat on medium-low for about one minute. Add the olive oil and onions and stir for another minute. Add the fresh tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the canned tomatoes, thyme, and water. Bring to a boil and then cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add the cashew cream. Then season with salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer for another 10 minutes. Add the basil. With a hand blender, puree completely or until desired consistency is reached (if you want tomato chunks, puree less). Alternatively, if you don’t have a hand blender pour the soup into a blender in small batches. Cover the lid with a towel and blend on high for a few minutes. For a creamier soup, strain the soup throuh a fine mesh sieve. Ladle into bowls and serve immediately.

For the sandwiches: Preheat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Butter one side of each of the slices of bread. Place one slice of bread, buttered side down on the skillet. Spread the Daiya cheese on the bread and then the two basil leaves on top. Place the other slice of bread, buttered side up on top of the sandwich. Grill until lightly browned (just a few minutes!)  and then flip over and lightly press the sandwich with a spatula to melt the cheese and brown the other side of the sandwich. Remove from heat, cut and serve.

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