2 TBS chopped fresh basil leaves (or 2 tsp dried), plus more for serving
1 TBS chopped fresh fennel (optional, I had some so I used it)
¼ cup butter
¼ cup all purpose flour
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1 Parmesan rind (I keep them in my freezer to add to soups)
1 cup sour cream or half and half or whole milk
Kosher salt and black pepper
Here is what you need to do to make the soup:
Heat about 2 TBS of olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the carrots, onions and celery, season with some salt and pepper and sauté until they become soft.
Add in the tomato paste and stir to cook it out.
Score the bottom of the tomato with a little X and put in a pot of boiling water for about a minute. Remove the tomato, let it cool and peel off the skin. Chop it up and put it in the pot. Add the tomato sauce to the pot along with the chicken broth, oregano and basil (and fennel if using). Bring to a gentle boil then turn the heat off and let it cool a bit.
Blend the soup in a blender or if you have an immersion blender you can blend it right in the pot.
In another pot, melt the butter and add the flour to it to make a roux. Cook the roux out until it’s a nice light brown color. In essence you want to cook the flour. Then add a couple of ladles of soup to the roux and stir until smooth. Add the soup/ roux mix back to the pot along with the parmesan rind.
Bring to a gentle simmer and then add the parmesan cheese and sour cream. Taste and season if necessary. Let soup simmer for a while so the flavors can blend. Remove the parmesan rind and discard.
Ladle soup in bowls and top with some grated parmesan and fresh basil.
Serve with grilled cheese or add some croutons.
French Onion Grilled Cheese
Makes 4 sandwiches
Here is what you need for the French Onion Grilled Cheese:
unsalted butter at room temperature
1 TBS olive oil
1 large Vidalia onion, sliced about ¼ inch thick
1 TBS dry sherry
½ tsp chopped fresh thyme
4 slices of white American cheese**
4 slices of yellow American cheese**
8 slices of your favorite bread
Kosher salt and black pepper
*If you don't like onions (and I know some of you don't!) you can substitute with sliced bell peppers. My choice would be red, orange or yellow. If you like it a little smokey you could try poblano peppers.
**A note about the cheese. If you are using large slices of bread you may need more than one slice per side.
Here is what you need to do:
In a large pan melt 1 TBS butter and 1 TBS olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and season with salt and pepper.Spread the onions out in an even layer. Turn down the heat to medium low and cover the pan. Let the onions sweat and soften, this takes about 15 minutes. Then uncover the pan and continue cooking until the moisture has evaporated and the onions caramelize, a about 25 minutes, stirring often. Add the sherry and scrape up any bits that may be stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the thyme and let the sherry cook off. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed.
Preheat a large cast iron pan or griddle to medium low.
On 4 slices of bread place a single piece of white American cheese, on 4 slices of the other bread, place a single piece of yellow American cheese.
Divide the onions evenly on to 4 slices that have the same type of cheese on them. Take the other 4 slices and place on top of the onions, cheese side down of course.Butter both sides of the sandwich. Place the sandwiches in the pan and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.
Slice in half and enjoy with the soup. Let's Eat!!