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How to make the best tomato soup and grilled cheese

Rustic tomato soup to pair with grilled cheese

Rustic tomato soup to pair with grilled cheese is made with a touch of smoky, mild ancho chili powder. Credit: Marge Perry

Call it dinner or lunch, but to spin off a very old joke, just be sure to call it to the table. Tomato soup and grilled cheese are an ideal match — and make a great, easy-to-eat, easy-to-appreciate meal. But let’s keep that can of tomato soup as a wall poster and make our own. It is easy and infinitely better.

The recipe below makes a smoky, rustic, chunky version: if you prefer your soup smooth, by all means throw it in the blender. Ancho chili powder, which is available at most grocery stores in the spice aisle, lends smoky depth to the soup with only a touch of mild heat. You can omit it entirely and just use the smoked paprika for more subtle flavor. The soup freezes beautifully, by the way, and doing so in individual portions means anyone can have a nearly instant meal.

Now to the grilled cheese. While no recipe is required, there are some good tricks that can elevate your grilled cheese from ordinary to great.

First: don’t be stingy with the cheese or butter. Bring your butter to room temperature so it easily spreads on the bread. (Some folks use mayonnaise in place of the butter partially because it is easier to spread. This does, indeed, also make a great sandwich, although I personally prefer the butter flavor.)

For an over-the-top, very best grilled cheese, here’s an extra step you can add that is well worth it: butter both sides of the bread and briefly brown one side of each slice in melted butter in the pan. Remove the bread and make those toasted sides the INSIDE of your sandwich. Top them with cheese, then your second slice of toast with the browned side facing down, and brown the outside of the sandwich until the cheese melts. Doing this adds extra buttery crunch to the sandwich — and there’s nothing like the contrast of that with all the melted cheese.

Be sure to cook your grilled cheese over just medium heat to get a golden, not blackened, exterior by the time the cheese is fully melted. The outside should be golden brown — an amber, or honey color.

When making a bunch of grilled cheese sandwiches, keep them warm in a very low oven on a sheet pan. Don’t cover them, or they will steam and lose their crunch.

Rustic Tomato Soup with Garlic Croutons

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 medium onions, chopped (about 2 cups)

3 celery stalks, chopped (about 1 cup)

3 carrots, chopped (about 1 cup)

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon ancho chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted)

3 1/2 cups low sodium vegetable (or chicken) broth

3/4 teaspoon salt

4 ounces sourdough bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, ancho chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, paprika, and cinnamon and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add the tomatoes, broth and salt. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 40 minutes.

4. While the soup simmers, toss the bread cubes with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and garlic powder. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake until the bread is browned and crisp, about 7-8 minutes. Serve on top of the soup. Makes 6 servings

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