Ingredients

For the Soup
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, sliced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (up to 1/2 teaspoon more if you want it spicy)
2 28 ounce cans plum tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons creme fraiche (optional)

For the Grilled Cheese:
Good country, French or Italian bread
1 1/2 tablespoons caraway seeds
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 pound Morbier or other good melting cheese, such as Italian Fontina, Gruyere, or Mimolette

Directions

To Make the Soup:
1. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender, about 7 minutes. 
2. Add the tomatoes and 1 1/2 cups water and cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. 
3. Add the basil, season lightly with salt and pepper, and let cook briefly before pureeing the soup in a food processor or a blender, in batches if necessary. 
4. Pass the soup through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing on the solids with a ladle.  (This step is not necessary, but does make the soup more refined.  Save the pulp, if you like;, it is great on crostini or baked eggplant.)

Note: Keep the soup on medium-low heat if you plan to serve it right away.

To make the grilled cheese:
1. For easier slicing, stick the bread in the freezer briefly; it will be easier to slice when cold and firm.  With a serrated knife, cut the bread into 12 exceedingly thin slices - as thin as you can without the bread falling apart.  (Lynch uses a meat slicer and slices it about 1/4 inch thick.  She slices it long enough to balance across a soup bowl, though you can certainly serve it alongside.)
2. Heat a small, dry skillet over medium heat.  Add the caraway seeds and toast them, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 3 minutes.  (It’s easy to burn spices, so stick around during this part.)  Transfer the seeds to a bowl.  Go ahead and melt the butter in the same skillet.  Let it cool a bit and then add 1 tablespoon of the toasted caraway seeds to it.
3. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Have ready two heavy baking sheets of the same size so that one can nestle into the other.  Line one with a sheet of parchment paper. Slice the cheese thinly, too.  (How thin is not as crucial here, as the cheese melts so thoroughly that it practically disappears into the bread.) 
4. Brush 6 of the bread slices with the melted butter and lay them on the parchment-lined baking sheet.  Top each with a single layer of cheese and then top with another slice of buttered bread to make sandwiches.
5. Put the sandwiches on the prepared baking sheet, butter to the outside, leaving some space between them.  Cover the sandwiches with a piece of parchment and stack the second baking sheet on top of the first; this will cook the sandwiches on both sides without the need to flip them and will also flatten them a bit. 
6. Bake until the sandwiches are golden brown and crisp, 15 to 20 minutes. Carefully peel away the top layer of parchment, transfer the sandwiches to a cooling rack, and serve warm or at room temperature. Note: If there are any ragged bits of baked cheese hanging off the sandwiches, just trip them away by hand;  you’ll want to eat these, so go ahead.

To serve, divide the hot soup among six bowls.  Float a tablespoon of creme fraiche on top of the soup, if you like, and garnish with some of the reserved toasted caraway seeds.  Position a grilled cheese sandwich across the top of the bowl, if it fits without falling in, or beside the bowl, and serve.

Recipe Courtesy of Stir – Mixing It Up In the Italian Tradition, by Barbara Lynch, 2009.

 

 

This recipe is from Stir – Mixing It Up In the Italian Tradition by Barbara Lynch. In the text, she shows Heather Atwood, Food Columnist for the Gloucester Times, how to prepare this soup at her demonstration kitchen in Boston, also called Stir.

She does not demonstrate the Grilled Cheese sandwiches in the text, but according to Heather, do not let that stop you from making them. They are delicious even alone, and are now the favorite lunch sandwich of her children.

Spicy Tomato Soup with Crispy Grilled Cheese from Barbara Lynch
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