Hey there, Chicago! I hope you’re staying as warm as you can. Today is one of those days where I feel extremely fortunate that I work from home. The “feel like” temperature this morning was -51 degrees and letting the pups out I felt like I had turned into a human icicle. This is dangerous cold so I genuinely hope you all are staying warm and avoiding the cold as much as possible if you’re experiencing this polar vortex. On the bright side, this is perfect soup weather! Nothing warms you up more than a screaming hot bowl of soup, something I’m going to miss in the gorgeous 60 and 70 degree Texas weather in a few days. Fingers crossed my flight gets out tomorrow night!Read More
We’re coming towards the end of tomato season which is so sad! Tomatoes are in the height of their harvest from August to about mid-September, maybe through the month if the weather keeps warm. I went to the farmers market this morning and it was obvious the end is near. Heirlooms are bountiful right now but all the other tomato varieties are starting to phase out. It’s the only time of the year you’ll see me bite into a tomato the same way you would an apple. A little salt and that’s all it needs, if anything. From colorful, rustic heirlooms to the delightful mini cherry tomatoes, there are a million things you can do with tomatoes. Cook a fresh pot of tomato sauce, make a cold gazpacho on a hot late summer day, puree a bowl of steaming classic tomato soup to pair with a crispy, gooey grilled cheese sandwiches on fall-like September days...the options are endless! This particular recipe is a hearty version of summertime flavor combination that is one of my personal favorites: Caprese.
Caprese is an Italian salad consisting of tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil. It’s also served as a pizza, sandwich and more. It’s fresh and delicious. Something about the combination of these three ingredients is dynamite. I wanted to do something similar for this time of year because the tomatoes are perfect but I wanted it to be a little more substantial for dinner. So I thought...add chicken! To really bump up the flavor of the basil, I also threw together a quick and easy pesto to schmear the bread with. The end result had great flavors and left everyone completely satisfied.
The chicken should not be enormous. Unless I’m planning to cut the chicken into strips or cubes myself, I always go to the butcher to order my chicken breasts. It gives me a little more control over the size of the meat. This particular recipe only needs thin-cut chicken breasts which are easier to eyeball in the packaged meat section. You can also buy two regular sized chicken breasts and slice them in half yourself. It’s much easier than it might seem. The trick is to have a really sharp, thin knife. It gives you the control you need to make a nice cut easily. There will be plenty of flavor from the pesto and the tomatoes so the chicken only needs to be seasoned simply with salt and pepper. Thin-cut breasts will cook rapidly over a higher heat which is what you want. No dry chicken in this kitchen! Sear it on both sides for a few minutes and let it rest while preparing the sandwiches.
Roasting tomatoes, especially cherry tomatoes, brings out all their natural sweetness. It’s my favorite way to cook them and it couldn’t be easier. Because you just want to melt the cheese after assembling the sandwiches, all the ingredients should be ready to go before assembly. In other words, the tomatoes need to be roasted. Drizzle a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper and slide into the oven while you cook the chicken. Once everything is ready, schmear the bread with some pesto, top with the chicken, add a little more pesto, top with the roasted tomatoes and cheese. I don’t feel like this needs anything to go alongside it but a simple salad or roasted potatoes would pair nicely.
Open-Face Chicken Caprese Sandwiches
2 cups fresh Basil + ½ cup torn
1 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
2 Garlic Cloves
¼ cup Olive Oil, divided
1 pint Multi-Color Cherry Tomatoes, halved
4 thin-cut boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 thick-cut slices Country or Italian Bread
4 slices Mozzarella Cheese
Salt & Pepper
1 - In a food processor, combine the basil, parmesan, garlic, salt and pepper until chopped. Slowly stream in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil until a paste forms.
2 - Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with tin foil. Place the tomatoes on the sheet. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast 20-30 minutes until skins are blistered and tomatoes have softened.
3 - Meanwhile, heat a grill pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper. Cook 3-4 minutes per side until cooked through and no longer pink.
4 - Assemble the sandwiches. Brush 1 tablespoon of pesto on each bread slice. Lay the chicken on top and spoon a little more pesto. Top with the tomatoes and mozzarella slice. Place back in the oven for 5 minutes until cheese melts.
5 - Top with torn basil for garnish and serve.
Tomato season is here! As an Italian, I can appreciate the season of tomatoes. They’re such a versatile ingredient and come in many different shapes, sizes, and even colors. I love roasting cherry tomatoes to bring out more of their natural sweetness. Heirloom tomatoes are gorgeous for salads and sandwiches. Plum tomatoes and vine tomatoes are perfect for homemade sauces. Tomatoes are never better than while at the peak of their season. The same goes for any other fruit or vegetable but tomatoes seem to be juicier and sweeter from August to September while they’re thriving. With that said, today’s farmers market recipe is a very simple and easy tomato sauce. Make it on weeknights, make it on the weekend. Double, triple, or even quadruple the batch and freeze the extras for quick dinners in the coming weeks.
What’s great about this recipe is that the other two main ingredients are also at the peak of their season right now: basil and garlic. The basil is so aromatic at this time which makes it perfect for using in homemade sauces. Its potency will lend lots of great flavor to the tomatoes. Garlic is also growing like crazy now which means it's inexpensive and fresh. I call this recipe 3-Ingredient because the others should be basics you have in your pantry. Olive oil, salt and pepper should always be stocked in your kitchen. Nothing puts me in a panic more than realizing that I just used my last drop of olive oil. So to keep that from happening, I’ll usually buy a new bottle of olive oil when I’m a little under half-way through with my current one.
There are a lot of variations of olive oil at the grocery store and it can be intimidating, especially if you’re just getting started in the kitchen or haven’t used olive oil regularly up till now. Being Italian, olive oil was always something we had on hand. We use it for everything from sweating onions to drizzling over salads. We use it straight up to dip bread, we use it in baking. It’s a basic kitchen ingredient and that’s the same for a lot of other cultures too: Spanish, French, Greek, etc. It’s also really good for you, especially in its raw form (not cooked). I always go with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. You want to stay away from anything that labeled or considered "light." Extra virgin is of the best quality and a standard option for overall use. I won’t go crazy and buy $50 bottles but I generally like my olive oil to be made in Italy, Greece or Spain and never more than one location. Surprisingly, you can find oils that have 2+ places attributed to their creation. Not good. I have, however, found a brand made out of California that's really good. Bon Appetit has a helpful article to buying olive oil as a beginner if you're interested.
Now that we’ve got ingredient information out of the way, let’s talk sauce. Like I said, this is essentially a 3-ingredient sauce: tomatoes, basil and garlic. While you prepare the sauce, get a pot of water boiling and cook your desired pasta. I used Fettuccine because we love big noodles in my house and it's a heartier pasta. Fettuccine pairs well with the fresher sauces too. First step: heat the olive oil over a medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes, basil and garlic. Season generously to taste (the S&P is your only chance to season the sauce) and bring to a simmer. Step 2: Let the sauce simmer for about 15-minutes until the tomatoes have released their juices and the bitterness has cooked out. Step 3: Toss with the fettuccine and serve. That’s it! Super easy, ridiculously quick and SOOO delicious.
NOTE: If you decide to increase this recipe and make a double, triple or even quadruple batch, increase the cook time. This is very important. Adding more tomatoes means they need extra time to cook. I would add 15-minutes for every extra “batch.” So if you double this recipe, cook 30-minutes. If you quadruple the recipe, cook for at least 60-minutes. The key is to keep stirring it every 15-minutes or so to keep the bottom from burning and tasting it along the way to see if it’s ready. And to be clear, you can absolutely cook this sauce longer than the required time. Cooking tomato sauces longer make the flavors develop more which creates a richer, sweeter, more delicious sauce. The time reflected in this recipe is the minimum suggestion for the best result. Happy cooking!
Simple 3-Ingredient Tomato Sauce
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
4 medium-large Tomatoes, diced
½ cup Basil, roughly chopped
3 Garlic Cloves, finely chopped
Salt & Pepper
1 lb. Fettuccine
1 - In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes, basil and garlic. Season generously with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and let cook for about 15 minutes until the tomatoes have released their juices and are no longer bitter.
2 - Meanwhile, cook the fettuccine or your choice of pasta, according to package directions. Drain and toss with the tomato sauce. Serve.
We are officially in the dog days of summer. August is traditionally the hottest and most unbearable of the summer months, not just for Chicago, but all over it seems. The big scary bugs are out like crazy and you feel like you need a shower for being outside five minutes. There’s also things like back to school which means back to sports and after school activities. While I don’t have kids of my own, living with two teenagers gives me a unique perspective of organizing dinner times around busy schedules and the importance of quick dinners. I also can appreciate a meal that doesn’t heat up the kitchen on a hot day. Who wants to sweat even more at the end of summertime? Bring on fall already!
I’m always impressed by the triple decker sandwiches from diners and casual restaurants. They’re satisfying without weighing too heavy in your stomach. They’re also much less intimidating to create than you’d think. They do take a minute to assemble but that’s ok because it allows enough time for the cucumber tomato salad to marinate. By the time the sandwiches are together, dinner is ready to go. The only reason the kitchen might get heated up is if you’re cooking the bacon that same day. I did and it only added a few extra minutes to the prep time. I actually had the bacon going as I was preparing the vegetables for the salad. The cucumber-tomato salad is a simple version of a classic. Soaking the onion in water (you can add a splash of vinegar too) will keep them from overpowering the other ingredients. I love onion flavor but I don’t like when the onions are strong. Red wine vinegar and olive oil mix together for a simple dressing, everything marinades for about 15-20 minutes and you’re set!
As much as I love triple decker sandwiches, I don't love that they can be so huge my mouth can't fit around them. It’s a joke in my family and with my friends, also my dentist, at how small my mouth is. Not kidding, he uses the kid-sized tools during my visit. It’s embarrassing. If you're ever out to eat with me and I accidentally take too large of a bite, be prepared to fill the conversation for the next five minutes. The great thing about these club sandwiches is that they pack in a lot of ingredients but they’re not towering so high that it’s an Olympic sport to fit in your mouth. A little cheese, a decent amount of meat and just enough veg to keep things fresh. And of course, you can’t forget the mayo!
Turkey Club Sandwiches with Cucumber-Tomato Salad
Ingredients for the Sandwiches:
12 slices Multigrain Bread (or your favorite sandwich bread), toasted
½ cup Mayo or Veganaise
8 slices Turkey Deli Meat (your choice)
8 strips Bacon, cooked and broken in half
4 slices of Tomato (or 8 slices if the tomato is small in size)
4 slices Muenster Cheese
4 Lettuce Leaves
Ingredients for the Salad:
½ small Red Onion, thinly sliced
1 Cucumber, halved and sliced
1 pint Cherry Tomatoes, halved
¼ cup Olive Oil
2 tbsp. Red Wine Vinegar
Salt & Pepper
1 - Prep the Salad. Soak the onion slices in water for 20-30 minutes. You can also add a dash of vinegar too. This will help mute the flavor so the onion isn’t as strong. In a medium-sized serving bowl, mix together the cucumber, tomato, and onions. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and vinegar. Drizzle over the salad and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
2 - Prep the sandwiches. Place two slices of bread facedown. On each side of the bread that’s face up, spread a little bit of the mayo. On one piece of bread, layer a slice of turkey, two bacon halves, and tomato. On the other piece of bread, layer a slice of cheese, two more bacon halves, a slice of turkey and lettuce. Spread a little mayo on both sides of the third piece of bread and place on one of sandwich halves. Carefully, flip the other half over to make a triple decker sandwich. Secure with two toothpicks to keep in place and slice in half. Serve.
Makes 4 Sandwiches
Happy Mother’s Day! If you’re a mama, I hope you’re enjoying a relaxing day to yourself or spending it with the little ones. Mother’s Day is like any other holiday in my family. I cook a lot of food and everyone eats it. All the moms get a night off cooking and cleaning, and I add another successful dinner to the books. Normally, Mother’s Day is an ideal time to use all the colorful spring produce and make a pretty brunch or breakfast. Sadly, since winter only ended three weeks ago our spring produce is coming in rather slow which makes recipes like this Roasted Parmesan Chicken with Tomatoes & Arugula ideal. It’s also perfect for moms who need to get dinner on the table quick on weeknights. It’s a light, flavorful meal that doesn’t take long to prepare and only takes a total of 5 ingredients (plus S&P).
Tomatoes are at their peak season in August but with sustainable glasshouse farming like Chicago’s MightyVine Tomatoes, their accessibility year-round is rising. Tomatoes can add a lot of great flavor and depth to a dish. There’s a reason why Italians use them as the main ingredient for pasta sauce. Roasting tomatoes brings out all that sweetness and bright flavor, making this a great spring dish. It’s also simple and some of the best spring meals are the simplest. A little arugula drizzled with some balsamic and you’ve got yourself a tasty dinner that gets on the table fast.
For the chicken, I like to buy thin-cut breasts. Full chicken breasts are too much for one person in my family and they take much longer to cook. The thin-cut breasts are the perfect size and they cook fast. The less time you need to cook chicken, the less room for error there is. No one likes dry chicken. When the chicken is finished cooking or almost done, sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top and return it to the oven to cook a little longer and melt. It will create a nice, cheesy crust that’s gooey and gives the roasted tomatoes something to stick to. The tomatoes and chicken can roast on the same pan. Cherry tomatoes have a lot of great flavor for roasting and they cook fast, especially when they are halved.
Overall, this is a really simple dinner that only calls for a sheet pan to prepare. Use some tin foil to coat the baking sheet and the only dishes you’ll have to wash are the plates! That’s what I call a perfect weeknight dinner. After all, who wants to spend tons of time in the kitchen when you can be enjoying a beautiful night on the back patio sipping a glass of wine? No one. That’s who!
Roasted Parmesan Chicken with Tomatoes & Arugula
4 boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts
1 pint Cherry Tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 cup Parmesan Cheese, shredded or shaved)
5 oz. Arugula, rinsed
Salt & Pepper
Optional: Balsamic Vinegar (for garnish)
1 - Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prep a baking sheet with tin foil.
2 - Rub the chicken (or use a pastry brush) with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Place the chicken breasts on one side of the baking sheet. On the other, toss the tomatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
3 - Check the chicken. It should be almost done or just done cooking. Divide the Parmesan cheese evenly over each chicken breast, sprinkling over the top. Place back in the oven to finish cooking and melt the cheese. Once the cheese has melted, remove from the oven and let sit for five minutes.
4 - While the chicken cools, lay a bed of arugula on each plate. Top with the roasted tomatoes and chicken. Optional: drizzle with a little olive oil or balsamic vinegar to finish. Serve.
Happy Monday! It’s a beautiful, sunny, 50 degree day here in Chicago. While I love winter and the cooler months, there’s something about these first few warm days between winter and spring that make me happy. Feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin is almost therapeutic. Kind of like your body is soaking in vital nutrients it’s been missing for so long. As we’re about to turn the corner into March, I can’t help but think of how quick the month has flown by. Didn’t January feel like it lasted for a year and February was a mere minute? If it weren’t for all the snow we had, I’d almost feel like we completely missed out on winter! While today and tomorrow are going to be warmed up, nights and days on average are still pretty cold which makes this final cookbook feature in our Around the World series perfect.
Ottolenghi was lent to me by a friend specifically for this series. I have more than a dozen cookbooks but the only cuisines I was able to pull out of them were Thai, Italian and French. I couldn’t believe that I had all these cookbooks and only three cultures to show for it. If you saw how many French and Italian cookbooks I had, you’d understand though. It appears I have a life mission to master French cooking through as many cookbooks as possible. So to add one more culture to the cookbook part of the series, a friend lent me Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi featuring recipes inspired by the Mediterranean.
Both Ottolenghi and Tamimi were born and raised in Jerusalem which is where their culinary roots are heavily based. They’ve since transformed their traditional dishes to include influence from California, Italy, North Africa and other destinations but at the heart, the recipes are true to their origins. Like any new culture or language, decoding the recipes to imagine what they would turn out to be was a bit difficult at first but a challenge I accepted with enthusiasm. Unfortunately, Ottlenghi uses a lot of ingredients that are hard to find or expensive in my Midwestern suburban town so narrowing down which recipes I was going to feature turned out to be pretty easy. The end result ended up being a flavorful chicken dinner with a rice pilaf type side. It was a meal that everyone enjoyed (surprisingly considering the new spices I introduced my picky eaters too).
Kosheri is a lentil and rice dish traditionally from Egypt served both hot or cold. It’s not difficult to prepare but there are several parts and steps that need attention at the same time. It takes more concentration than anything. Since it can be served both hot or cold, you don’t have to feel bad about serving it room temperature! It takes a bit of the pressure off. There are a lot of variations to this recipe both in its home country of Egypt but also as a similar dish in other cultures such as Indian and even English. This particular recipe uses a spicy tomato sauce that adds another layer of depth to an already well-rounded dish.
Kosheri is a mixture of lentils, basmati rice, and vermicelli noodles all cooked separate before brought together for the end product. The rice is seasoned with nutmeg and cinnamon giving it a warm flavor that contrasts beautifully with the tangy and spicy tomato sauce. I prepared the Kosheri in about 40 minutes or so. It was enough time to clean up after the chicken dish and get the kosheri prepared before the chicken finished cooking. Because of the combination of spices, I won a few over with dish and lost a few. Turns out tang and warm spices are not an ideal combination for some people.
Roast Chicken with Sumac, Za’atar and Lemon
For the main course to serve along the Kosheri, I chose an easy roasted chicken recipe. It calls for one whole chicken cut up. To save money but also because I didn’t want to butcher my own chicken and the store was out of whole cut up options, I used only chicken quarters. Everyone prefers dark meat anyway, right? This recipe is a basic roast chicken recipe with an intense marinade and lots of spices. I love it because it’s hands off too. The chicken marinades all day or at least for a few hours in a plastic bag with a myriad of spices, lemon and a few other ingredients. Once it’s time to roast, dump the bag onto a baking sheet or into a roasting pan and pop it in the oven. While the chicken roasts, prep the Kosheri and if you’d like, a side salad for a touch of freshness. The chicken becomes super tender and flavorful thanks to the long marinade and it pairs perfect with the Kosheri.
I’m sad to see this series come to and end but we’ve got a ton of great stuff coming to you in March! If you missed any other posts in the Around the World series, check them out. If you’re interested in a specific culture or cuisine, besides Jerusalem we covered France, Greece, Italy, Mexico, North Africa, Poland and Thailand. Happy eating!
When was the last time you went out to brunch? It’s been a while for me and I feel like it’s about time. It doesn’t help that I’ve got about a thousand restaurants on my brain recently including Mable’s Table, The Delta, and Chez Moi. A girl can dream, right? A dish in particular that is taking the brunch scene by storm is Shakshuka, pronounced exactly as you see it (sh-ak-sh-ooh-kah). This North African delicacy is the simple combination of eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce. It can be made a number of different ways.
I opted for a more traditional recipe keeping the red tomato sauce instead of green. The color is gorgeous and the flavors are bright and comforting. What’s even better is that this is a one-pot dish. Who doesn’t love a dinner with minimal clean up? Start with onion, garlic, red bell pepper and a few different spices sauteed in butter until soft. Add crushed tomatoes (or if you’d like the sauce a little more chunky, you can use diced), and bring to a simmer. I originally had a full teaspoon of cayenne pepper as well as a half teaspoon of red pepper flakes instead of one quarter. I love spice but that was a bit hot even for me. If you want yours spicier, add a little more cayenne and red pepper flakes. Those are the two spices that will effect the heat level the most.
Let’s talk eggs. In full transparency, I did not make this once and call it a success. I made it a few times because the first time, I overcooked the eggs the yolks were completely solid. In my defense, I did a lot of research on shakshuka before writing my own recipe and the average cook time was 20-25 minutes for the eggs. I don’t know what happened and it wasn’t my stove. The second time I made this dish, I cut the time down to 15 minutes in my downtown apartment (as opposed to the house in the burbs) and they were overcooked again! The answer: watch your eggs carefully. Don’t be afraid to gently poke the yolk to make sure it’s still liquid. Otherwise, You’ll be eating shakshuka with eggs poached so well you might as well crumble a hard-boiled egg over the sauce instead.
2 tbsp. Butter
½ Onion, chopped
2 Garlic Cloves, chopped
1 Red Bell Pepper, diced
¼ tsp. Coriander
¼ tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
½ tsp. Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp. Paprika
1 tsp. Oregano
15 oz. Crushed Tomatoes
15 oz. Diced Tomatoes
Goat Cheese Crumbles (for garnish)
1 - Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, bell pepper, and spices. Saute 8-10 minutes until softened.
2 - Add the tomatoes to the skillet. Bring to a simmer and let cook about 10-15 minutes until the tomatoes have sweetened and the spices have released their flavors. Adjust seasoning as necessary.
3 - Crack the eggs carefully into the tomato sauce. Do not break the yolks. You can create little holes in the sauce for them if you’d like. Cover tight with a lid and let cook about 8-10 minutes until the eggs are cooked through. Watch closely or else they’ll cook solid!
4 - Garnish with the goat cheese crumbles and serve with crusty bread.
Certain combinations are meant to be together. Peanut Butter and Jelly. Bacon and Eggs. Timon and Pumba. Ross and Rachel. The #1 combination that I will never tire of is Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese. It’s a match made in heaven. A match so perfect no other can surpass it. Growing up, my Papa used to make me tomato soup for lunch out of the can. He always made it best using milk instead of water. It was one of my favorite lunches and we always paired it with either a simple turkey sandwich or grilled cheese. No one made it like him and whenever someone tried, it was never as good. Maybe that was just me being a brat but it made a difference. This recipe is inspired by those cold days when we had tomato soup for lunch.
I think we can all agree that homemade soup is much better for you than canned. For starters, the sodium content alone decreases. You are in control of the ingredients and you know what’s going into the pot. With a medium-sized saucepan and an immersion blender (a regular blender or food processor also work), you can whip up your own version of Creamy Tomato Soup easily and in no time at all. It’s a few basic ingredients, most of which you’ll find in the pantry.
To play off of the canned soup with milk classic I grew up on, I wanted this recipe to also be creamy. Tomato soup is great in any form but I love how comforting a touch of milk, or in this case, heavy cream can be. Start by sauteing the garlic and onion. Not only do you want them to soften, you want them to release the sting so that it brings out the natural sweetness. A little black pepper and basil season the dish but if you’d like a little kick, add some red pepper flakes. It’s a nice metabolism boost. San Marzano Tomatoes are ideal because they naturally have a little more sweetness to them. Any canned tomato would work in any size though. The tomatoes and veggie stock come to a boil and simmer for a few minutes to release the bitterness from the tomato. Once that’s ready to go, blend and then add in the heavy cream for a final touch. You won’t be sorry!
Let’s talk about the Grilled Three Cheese for a minute. This is no ordinary grilled cheese. It uses a combination of Cheddar, Havarti and Gouda for a balanced flavor combination and...it’s baked. Searing the sandwich on a griddle toasts each side of bread nicely. It doesn’t get the cheese all gooey though and the bread is still too soft. Finish the sandwiches on a baking sheet in a preheated oven for a few quick minutes. The cheese gets so gooey, it might as well be liquid, and the bread finishes toasting for a great crunch without burning. Slice it in half, see the cheese pull and get ready to dip. This is a sandwich you’ll be coming back to night after night.
Creamy Tomato Soup & Grilled Three Cheese
Ingredients for the Soup:
1 small Onion, diced
3 Garlic Cloves, chopped
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
¼ tsp. Black Pepper
1 tsp. Basil
¼ tsp. Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
28 oz. San Marzano Tomatoes
1 cup Vegetable Stock
1 cup Heavy Cream
Ingredients for the Grilled Three Cheese:
8 slices of Bread
4 tbsp. Butter
4 slices Cheddar Cheese
4 slices Gouda Cheese
4 slices Havarti Cheese
1 - In a medium-large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until softened. Add the garlic and saute a minute or two until fragrant. Add the black pepper, basil, and red pepper (if using) and give a quick stir.
2 - Add the tomatoes and veggie stock to the pot. Break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil and simmer 20-30 minutes until some of the liquid has evaporated and the tomatoes have sweetened. Turn off the heat and let cool.
3 - Using an immersion blender, blend the tomato mixture. If you don’t have an immersion blender, carefully transfer the soup to a blender or food processor and blend. You can blend the soup until it’s smooth or leave some chunks in there for texture.
4 - Turn the heat back on to medium-low. Add the heavy cream and stir in. Let simmer another 5-10 minutes and serve.
For the Grilled Three Cheese:
1 - Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Butter one side of each slice of bread.
2 - Build and grill the sandwiches. Place one side of bread butter-side down on the griddle. Add a slice of Gouda, Cheddar and Havarti cheese and top with the final slice of bread, butter-side up.
3 - Let cook 8-10 minutes* per side until the bread has browned and lightly toasted. Press down with the spatula before flipping. Flip carefully not to ruin the sandwich. Remove to a baking sheet.
4 - Once all of the sandwiches have been grilled, place the baking sheet in the oven. Bake 5-8 minutes until the cheese has fully melted. Serve with the creamy tomato soup.
* NOTE: The first side may cook faster than the second due to the pan getting hotter over time.