Roasted Tomato Soup with Grilled Daiya Sandwiches

I climb into my kitchen, turn the oven to 400 degrees and start roasting some veggies for a perfect pairing that I have been craving all week: Tomato Soup with Grilled "Cheese" - fresh leaves of basil stuffed between the fluffy toasted sandwich bread. My homemade tomato soup has a velvety texture infused with flavors of sweet tomato, sweet onion, rustic Italian spice and plenty of silky, buttery olive oil. Each steamy spoonful leaves me feeling cozy as can be. Even cozier than snuggling on say, a pile of sweaters. (I'll explain.)

..And if you've never made tomato soup from scratch, from fresh tomatoes, it's a must try! This recipe will come in handy on the next cold and rainy night that pops up..

The inspiration..

..and even more sheets of veggies to roast..

August weather in DC is a roller coaster. Friday night I found myself stranded under the Whole Foods awning for a half hour, two heavy bags hanging from my shoulders, while an angry thunderstorm washed over the neighborhood for a good while. Gushing water plunging from the Whole Foods rooftop. Mucky puddles at my flip-flop wearing feet. No umbrella. It was sunny and only a bit blustery when I had left. But clear skies can vanish and appear in a matter of minutes this time of year.

Sunday was a classic crazy weather day as well. The cloudy, faded blue sky quickly closed up into a cluster of puffy grey drifting clouds, soon melting into a hazy darkness of doom just waiting to explode. Then suddenly, it's raining. It's pouring.

I grew up in Cali where the 'storms' rarely get this bipolar, wild and weird, scary and exciting. The cracking thunder and flashes of lightning usually send my kitty darting into the the hall closet, right on top of the cluster of winter sweaters, all snuggly and warm. I wish I had a cozy cove to climb into. A pile of sweaters would be nice right about now. But instead I climb into my kitchen, turn the oven to 400 degrees and start roasting some veggies.

..Today it was tomatoes, brussel sprouts, mushrooms, onions and garlic. But the tomatoes were my muse. I didn't have a plan for the other veggies, but the tomatoes were for my grilled cheese/tomato soup craving.

Nelly rolling in a temperamental August sunbeam..

Those roasted, caramelized onions blended into the soup act as a natural thickener - plus they compliment the bright acidic tomato flavor nicely. I like to add a few as garnish..

Grilled Cheese Pairing. Here are a few recipes that pair nicely with this soup. I made a basic Daiya Pepperjack Panini.

* Pepperjack Basil Panini
* Fire and Ice Panini
* Black and White Panini
* Classic Vegan Grilled Cheese - 101
* Apple Cheese on Cinna-Raisin Bread

Before Roasting:

After roasting:

Easy Roasted Tomato Soup
makes 6 cups

For roasting veggies:
2 lbs vine tomatoes
1 sweet onion, chopped
1/2 tsp sea salt + 1/4 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp dried Italian herb blend
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2-6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Add-in to blending step:
1 Tbsp agave syrup (to taste)
2 Tbsp vegan butter (Earth Balance)
1 tsp garlic paste or 4 cloves roasted garlic (roast cloves with the onions)
a few dashes of cayenne
salt/pepper to taste

To Make:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Add tomatoes to a roasting pan. Remove most stems. You can leave a few on for tomato on stem garnishes as seen in my photos. Also chop and add onions to pan.

3. Add the lemon juice, olive oil, Italian seasoning, fresh thyme sprigs, optional garlic cloves and sea salt to the tomatoes and onions. I like to brush some of the lemon/oil onto the tomatoes to evenly distribute. Add in the fresh thyme. You will remove the thyme stems after roasting. The liquid should form a shallow pool for the veggies to soak in as they roast. You can use more or less olive oil depending on how rich you want your soup - as the excess liquid will be poured into your soup blend.

4. You onions should be caramelized and nicely roasted in about 20 minutes or so. You can remove them and let them rest while the tomatoes roast for another 10-20 minutes - you want them to burst and become slightly shriveled and the edges browned - but not burnt. Remove fresh thyme stems.

5. The last step is to blend the soup. Add the de-stemmed tomatoes, roasted onions and the 2 Tbsp vegan butter to a high speed blender like a Vitamix. Blend on the lowest setting possible for a good 2-3 minutes. Do a few seconds, up to a minute on high speed. Turn off. Do a taste test. You can adjust salt/pepper/oil as you'd like. You can even add in other ingredients like cayenne, fresh basil, other dried spices and more. Note: the high speed setting will not only break up any tomato skin clumps or onion skins, but it will also heat the soup even more. But use with extreme caution as hot liquids can explode in a blender setting.

6. Serve warm - no need to reheat! The soup will be perfectly warm and ready to serve. Or you can place over low heat on the stove (in a soup pot) until ready to be served.

Serve with some warm grilled cheese sandwiches for ultimate coziness. (sandwich recipes above)

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