creamy tomato basil bisque with grilled cheese croutons

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I know I’ve been sharing mostly tomato recipes for the last two months, but we made this tonight, and it was so good I felt it needed to be shared as soon as humanly possible.  The soup in the pot hasn’t finished cooling down yet.  This bisque is rustic and homey and delicious; and the grilled cheese “croutons” won’t stay crunchy for long, but you won’t care because they’re buttery and cheese-y and awesome.  If the soup is too chunky for you after a few whirls in the food processor, you can strain it through a fine mesh strainer back into the pot – we liked the thicker texture, so we decided to skip that step.  Yum.

Creamy Tomato Basil Bisque
with Grilled Cheese Croutons

Yields 4 servings

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup onion, chopped (about 1 small onion)
1/2 cup carrots, chopped (about 1 to 2 carrots)

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 28-ounce cans fire roasted tomatoes (like Muir Glen Organic)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon basil, dried
1/2 teaspoon oregano, dried
1 bay leaf
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/3 cup half and half
1/4 cup fresh basil, chiffonade cut, for garnish

8 slices wheat bread
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded (we used Milton Creamery Prairie Breeze)
butter

Method

  1. Heat oil in a 4-quart pot over medium heat.  Add onion and carrot and cook for about 7 to 8 minutes, add garlic, then cook an additional minute or two.
  2. Add tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, dried basil, oregano, bay leaf, and stock.  Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. While bisque simmers, heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Butter one side of the bread slices and place 1/4 cup cheese between each pair of slices (4 sets total).  Place two sandwiches buttered side down in skillet, cook until browned, about 2 minutes, then flip and cook until browned on second side.  Repeat with remaining two sandwiches.  Remove grilled cheese sandwiches from heat, cut each into approximately 1 inch pieces.
  4. Remove soup from heat and remove bay leaf.  In batches, purée soup in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return to pot and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in the half and half.  Season soup with salt and pepper.  Add grilled cheese croutons (1 sandwich worth of croutons per person), garnish with basil, and serve.
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