I have several iterations of this basic soup, each one is a bit different, but all perfect for a chilly evening.  For this version, I rely on a medley of fresh vegetables to produce a beautiful soup, rich in vitamin C  with a gorgeous color. The colors make it an ideal starter for a holiday gathering.  You can definitely buy prepared roasted red peppers, but I suggest making them yourself for the best fresh flavor.  The brioche brie grilled cheese croutons add an unexpected bite of rich flavor that distinguishes the soup.  I used delicate brioche to make the grilled cheese croutons in combination with the brie for the perfect buttery finish to contrast with the acidity tomato of the tomatoes.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

for soup:

  • 2 1/2 lbs campari tomatoes, or ripest tomatoes available
  • 4 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1  onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 roasted red peppers, peeled and seeded (recipe below)
  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, rough chop
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cups vegetable stock; more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon vodka
  • 1/2 cup cream, plus more for drizzle
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbs. julienned basil (optional)

brie grilled cheese croutons:

  • 4 slices brioche (1/4 inch thick)
  • 4 oz good quality brie
  • 2 -4 tablespoons butter

Directions:

for roasted red peppers:

Preheat oven to 400. On a foil lined baking sheet, split peppers down the middle length-wise, and place cut-side down on baking sheet. Roast for about 25-30 minutes until pepper skin begins to brown and burn. Remove from oven, wrap in foil and place in a brown bag until cool enough to handle, so they can “sweat” and skin can be easily removed.

for soup:

Preheat oven to 400 and place whole tomatoes on baking sheet. Season with salt, pepper  and garlic powder and drizzle with olive oil and bake for about 30 minutes until tomatoes begin to burst and release their juices. Save juices and tomatoes to add to soup along with roasted peppers.

for brioche grilled cheese croutons:

Allow brie to soften.  Gently spread softened brie on two pieces of brioche.  Top with second piece of brioche.  Heat 1 tablespoon of butter on  a non-stick pan, place sandwich on pan and press down with a heavy lid for about 1 minute on either side. You are aiming for a golden toasted sandwich.  Repeat process, using a tablespoon of butter on each side. Allow grilled cheese sandwich to cool for a few minutes before making croutons. Trim the crust from the sandwich (perfect for snacking!). Cut the sandwich in 9 equal squares. Set aside.

assemble soup:

In a medium pot (an enamel stock pot is ideal), heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and butter. Add the onion, carrots, celery, tomato paste and garlic and sauté over medium heat, stirring frequently, until tender and lightly browned on the edges, about 7 min.. Add the prepared roasted tomatoes and juices, roasted red peppers, vodka, vegetable stock, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until reduced by a quarter and thickened, about 15 min. Using a food processor, blender or immersion blender, purée the soup (the immersion blender is great and you don’t dirty an extra bowl). You can add a bit more broth if soup is too thick and stir in the cream. Heat gently and adjust the seasonings to taste.  Ladle soup into bowls, top with 2- 3 brie grilled cheese croutons and garnish with the basil.  Drizzle in a bit of extra cream in a circle and serve immediately. Enjoy!