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Monday, September 17, 2012

Cream of Fresh Tomato Soup and Panini Croutons

I received my Food Network Magazine on Friday, and I've been pouring over the usual. There are so many different things in each magazine that I want to make!
We are still having very hot weather in Klamath Falls...80s-90s during the day with cool nights in the mid to low 40s. We are very fortunate- this time last year, I was frantically picking green tomatoes to put in newspaper in order to not lose them to a hard freeze! This is the warmest September I have experienced here in the Basin...and that's a good thing for the tomato plants!
As a result of the lovely weather, we are getting nice, vine-ripened tomatoes every day! Well, we are getting tomatoes that the chickens aren't sampling...the little brats were jumping up, eating the bottom out of a not quite ripe but pink 1 lb. German Giant tomato yesterday! I was pretty irritated at them- but now it's covered with poultry netting, so I think I have a handle on that little problem! I don't mind sharing with the chickens as long as they are eating the earwigs, but there are NO earwigs on that side of the garden! Sigh.
Anyhow, I have been canning at least 2 quarts of roma tomatoes the past few weekends, and I made 4 quarts of tomato sauce that are resting in the freezer after this weekend!
So, back to the Food Network Magazine- one of my favorite celebrity chefs is Ina Garten, the former owner of the Barefoot Contessa in the Hamptons of New York. She also had a Food Network Show called, "Barefoot Contessa" and she has many cookbooks under the same title.
She was one of the featured chefs for this month and she made a lovely tomato-orzo soup with 'panini' croutons. I liked the idea, but I wanted to find a recipe to use up the many ripe tomatoes I had sitting on my counter. I found her recipe for Cream of Fresh Tomato Soup and decided this would be perfect with the panini croutons!
I was also lucky enough to find a nice size block of Gruyere cheese on sale at Dirty Bird (oops, Sherm's Thunderbird Market) and paired with a freshly baked ciabatta loaf, I made a delicious dinner (and lunch, and dinner, and lunch, and dinner...) 
I used yellow Lemon Boy and Firework tomatoes from the garden. Unlike Ina, I cut a small x into the bottom of each tomato, dropped it in boiling water for 20 seconds or so and then dropped it into a bowl of ice and water. I peeled off the skin and cut out the core, and squeezed out the seeds.
I also doubled the recipe....and I also doubled the amount of basil. It was delicious! Instead of adding kosher salt, I used 1 tablespoon of basil salt that I made in August- another Food Network Magazine recipe!
It was rich, flavorful and delicious!
The best part were the panini croutons!
I took a 1/4 slice of ciabatta bread, buttered on side, and placed it on the bottom of a George Foreman grill. (I knew it would come in handy someday!) Then, I added about 1/2 cup of grated gruyere cheese, covered it with another piece of 1/4 in sliced ciabatta bread, that was buttered on one side. I closed the grill for about 4 minutes. The bread got toasty, beautifully marked, and the cheese melted. I took it off the grill, cut it into small croutons, and garnished the soup.

This has to be the best tomato soup I've ever had! And the croutons....even better than a toasted cheese sandwich on the side! You have to try this if you have a tomato garden!

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