Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

Serves 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion chopped (about 1 cup)
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 can (28 ounces) whole, peeled tomatoes
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 to 2 cups cream, room temperature
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 slices thin-sliced bread
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 (1/4 inch) slices cheddar cheese

1. To make soup: In a large pot heat olive oil over medium heat.

Add onion, celery, and carrot, and cook till tender, about 10 minutes. Add whole tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, broth, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until carrots are very tender, about 30 minutes.

Add cream as desired. 

With an immersion blender, puree soup until smooth ( or puree in batches in a food processor fitted with knife blade). Season to taste with salt and pepper.

2. To make croutons: On the stove, heat a grill pan (or frying pan) over medium-high heat. Brush one side of each bread slice with butter. Place two slices in the pan, buttered side down. Top with one slice of cheese each, then top with remaining slices of bread, buttered side up. Grill 2 to 3 minutes, until toasted; turn and grill other side. Cut into 1-inch squares. Serve soup hot, topped with a few croutons per serving.

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