I don’t know about the weather ‘round your parts, unless you live in Buffalo. Then I know all about your weather woes. Since, it has made national headlines and I have relatives who are crazy enough to live there*.
But, the weather here in Florida has been wack-a-do. Hot one day, cold the next three. Sticky hot for two days, then back to cold again with gusts of wind. It has been a sick cycle carousel, literally. (And I am not referring to a line from the popular pop rock song).
Make up your mind already, gosh-dang-neb-it! All this back and forth has been making me sick, sick, SICK! My body and sinuses are not happy campers at the moment.
I adore, and swoon over, Caprese salad. If it is on a menu I will normally want to order it, and go splitzy with Boy as a starter… before our other appetizer. So, I wanted to spin one of my favorites into a soup and sandwich combination… Waving of culinary wand… ‘Ta-Da!’ Pretty sure I nailed it.
The balsamic reduction accompanying drizzle is optional, but highly recommended. The acidity and tartness of the vinegar cuts through, and pairs with, the cream in the soup perfectly. Not to mention, it is fantastic with the Caprese croutons.
When I state ‘You must make this now!’… I mean you must make this right this very instant. And, you do not need to be under the weather to enjoy every last slurp and crunch of this delectable red, creamy beauty.
*Aunt Tee and Uncle Steve- So glad you made it through that Buffalo weather debacle! But, why exactly do you guys still live there? 😉 Love you both.
- 2 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Medium Yellow Onion – peeled and roughly diced
- ¼ tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
- 1 Dried Bay Leaf
- ½ tsp Dried Oregano
- 4 Cloves of Garlic – minced
- 2 (28 oz.) Cans of Tomatoes (peeled, whole tomatoes. Do not drain. Preferably San Marzano if available)
- 1 TBS Granulated Sugar
- 1 TBS Light Brown Sugar, packed
- 1 Cup of reduced sodium Chicken Stock (you can substitute Vegetable Stock)
- ⅔ Cup Half and Half (you can substitute Heavy Cream)
- 6 Large Basil Leaves – roughly chopped
- ¾ tsp Salt, plus more to taste
- ¾ tsp Pepper, plus more to taste
- Grilled Cheese:
- 4 Slices of Sourdough Bread
- 8 oz. Burrata Cheese – sliced in ½
- 2 oz. Parmesan Cheese – thinly sliced
- 6-8 Basil Leaves
- 4 TBS Butter, divided
- 4 tsp Mayonnaise, divided
- Salt, to taste
- Optional Garnishes:
- Basil Leaves – chiffonade
- Balsamic Vinegar Reduction:
- ¼ Cup Balsamic Vinegar
- 1 tsp Granulated Sugar
- Heat oil in a large stockpot (or Dutch oven) over medium heat. Add the onion, red pepper flakes, bay leaf and dried oregano. Season with measured salt and pepper.
- Cook until onions are soft and translucent, about 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Add the tomatoes (with their juices) and both sugars. Bring contents to a simmer. Cook 3-4 minutes, using the back of a wooden spoon or potato masher to slightly break up tomatoes.
- Add the stock and increase heat to high to bring soup to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to a simmer over medium-low to medium heat. Simmer for 15 -20 minutes, until soup has thickened slightly.
- Remove the bay leaf and discard. Add the half and half and basil leaves. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Use an immersion blender to puree the soup to desired consistency.*
- Meanwhile Make the Balsamic Vinegar Reduction (if using): Combine the vinegar and sugar in a small, heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring contents to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook until reduced by ½, about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Meanwhile Make the Grilled Cheese Sandwiches: Melt ⅓ of the butter in a griddle pan (or cast iron skillet or nonstick sauté pan) over medium heat. Add bread to the pan and toast one side until pale golden in color, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer bread, TOASTED SIDE UP, to a clean work surface.
- Spread the mayonnaise evenly on the toasted side of each piece of bread. Evenly divide, and arrange, the cheeses and basil leaves on top of 2 pieces of bread. Top with remaining 2 pieces of bread, toasted and mayonnaise side facing inward.
- Reduce heat under griddle pan to medium low. Melt another ⅓ of the butter. Once melted, add the sandwiches. Cook until golden brown on bottom, about 5 minutes. Spread the top, untoasted side, of the sandwich with remaining butter and flip over. Continue to cook the sandwich until golden brown, an additional 5 minutes.
- Remove grilled cheese to a cutting board and allow to cool slightly. Cut into 1’’ cubes.
- Serve the warm soup garnished with grilled cheese croutons, basil leaves, and a small drizzle of balsamic vinegar.