Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Grilled Cheese

bookDo you ever watch those cooking competitions and wonder what those dishes taste like? When I came across Top Chef: The Cookbook by Martin Brett and Tom Colicchio, I knew that I had to try and channel my own inner Top Chef. I ended up trying the Roasted Red Pepper Soup and Grilled Cheese with Portobello Mushroom sandwich.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup 

Ingredients

  • 3 medium red bell peppers
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 1 medium celery rib, diced
  • 1 large red onion, diced
  • 2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes in juice
  • ½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup heavy cream

 Instructions

  1. Roast the red peppers and coarsely chop.
  2. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the carrot, celery, and onion. Cook until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the peppers, tomatoes, basil, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer, lower the heat, and simmer until the tomatoes begin to break down, 25 to 30 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat, transfer to a blender, in batches, and blend until smooth.
  4. Return the mixture to the pot, add the cream, and stir until combined. Server, garnished with basil.

soup and sandwiches

Grilled Cheese with Portobello Mushrooms

 Ingredients

  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, or to taste
  • 3 large portobello mushroom caps, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 10 slices sourdough bread
  • 1 ¼ cups coarsely grated provolone cheese
  • 1 ¼ cup coarsely grated Monterey Jack cheese

 Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. In a medium skillet, combine 2 tablespoons of the oil and the red onion and place over medium heat. Cook until the onion starts to soften, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and transfer to a roasting dish big enough to fit the onion, tomatoes, and mushrooms.
  3. In the same skillet, combine the tomatoes with 1 tablespoon of the oil and vinegar over medium heat. Cook until the tomatoes start to soften, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the roasting dish with the onions.
  4. In a medium bowl, gently toss the mushrooms with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Transfer to the roasting dish with the other ingredients. Add the wine and stir to combine.
  5. Place the roasting dish in the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the vegetables are softened and lightly caramelized and the liquid is absorbed. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature.
  6. While you’re roasting the vegetables in a small sauce pan, combine the butter with the thyme sprigs and place over low heat. Heat until the butter is melted. Remove from heat.
  7. Remove the thyme sprigs from the melted butter and brush one side of each slice of bread with the butter. Place the sliced buttered side down on a baking sheet or other clean surface. Spread half of the slices with ¼ cup provolone cheese and ¼ cup Monterey Jack cheese each. Top the cheese with the mushroom mixture, dividing evenly among the slices. Place the remaining bread slices on top, buttered side up.
  8. Preheat a griddle or skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Place each sandwich on the griddle and cook until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes, pressing down on the sandwiches with a metal spatula to help them sear. Flip and cook the other side until golden brown and cheese was melted, 2 to 3 minutes more.
  9. Serve the soup, garnished with basil, with the sandwiches, cut in half, on the side.

Results

This meal was disappointing. The balsamic vinegar overwhelmed the soup, making it inedible. And the cheese sandwich was . . . okay. The white wine flavor did not come through on the vegetables, so you could easily leave out that ingredient.

The vegetables were too strong for the cheeses that they were paired with. I could barely taste the cheese. I’d like to remake the sandwich with a cheese that has more definition, like a medium cheddar or cream cheese. But the soup on the side? I’ll stick with the canned stuff.

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