Easy Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Croutons — The New Girl

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While I’m not technically a rookie anymore, I often still feel like one. Don’t get me wrong — my culinary skill set improved significantly in 2012. The many hours spent whisking away in the kitchen more often than not resulted in satisfied taste-testers (luckily, my friends happily oblige to free food). But with so many techniques still to master and trendy ingredients out there to try, it’s hard not to feel a step behind.

To shake these self doubts, I go back to the basics. A challenge is good, but cooking should remain, for the most part, fun. And sometimes there’s nothing quite as enjoyable as simple comfort food.

Ina’s Easy Tomato Soup from Food Network Magazine is just as the Barefoot Contessa promises: fool-proof. It’s a recipe that I am confident in getting right each time. Prep work is minimal and cleanup is a cinch, so the whole process is relaxing. As I let everything simmer together, I could almost hear her cheery voice encouraging, “How easy is that?”

If tomato soup isn’t generally your thing, I beg you to reconsider. I usually opt for chicken noodle or split pea myself, but this combination of ingredients is dreamy. Cream and saffron add a hint of rich indulgence, and orzo gives just the right amount of heartiness. Topped with buttery grilled cheese croutons, this cozy meal reminded me of why I like to cook. Make it tonight and you’ll feel like a star.

Here are a few things to consider before making this recipe:

  • While homemade chicken stock is preferable, store-bought will work just fine (that's what I used).
  • If you're skeptical of the croutons, consider this: your fingers won't get greasy from holding a grilled cheese sandwich.
  • I swapped sharp Cheddar for Gruyere since I already had some in the fridge. Use whatever cheese sounds tastiest to you.
  • Saffron is expensive, but just a pinch goes a long way. You'll love its warmth and spice.
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