Is it just me, or is Valentine’s Day geared towards men reminding women that they are loved? It’s actually not a holiday about love at all. It’s a holiday about gifts. Do you notice that among the excess commercials for Zales and K Jewelers there are in February, there is also an increase in commercials for Anti-Depressants? This isn’t a coincidence. Let’s stop pretending that diamonds, flowers or chocolates equal love and start showing each other, through actions.
This year, don’t set yourself up for disappointment and take Valentine’s Day into your own hands! I know that every household is different and sometimes “just making dinner” doesn’t seem like a big gesture, but there is something to sitting down to a home cooked meal that says, “I love you,” even if it’s in the subtlest way. Valentine’s Day dinners have been built up almost as much as gifts. Restaurants pull out Prix Fix menus that always include fois gras, filet mignon, truffles and soufflé and cost an arm and a leg.
Decadent meals are great, but sometimes a homemade dinner is more intimate. Simple little touches that say “Valentine’s Day” but don’t change a meal are my favorite. Here is a recipe for roasted tomato soup that I love making during any season. Adding a whimsical garnish to the soup takes it from a regular night in to a fun holiday meal.
Roasted Tomato Soup with Heart Shaped Grilled Cheese
or Watermelon Radishes & Pea Shoots
Serving Size: 2
Total Time: 1 Hour
- a sheet pan
- tin foil
- a medium saucepan with a lid
- a medium sauté pan
- a sharp knife
- a heart shaped cookie cutter (I like medium, but make sure its smaller than the width of the bread you buy) or one small heart shaped cookie cutter (if using radishes)
- a pastry brush
- a metal spatula
- a blender
- Aleppo pepper flakes (optional)
- 3 beefsteak tomatoes, cut in half width-wise
- one onion, quartered
- 2 tbs balsamic vinegar (separated into 1 and 1)
- 4 tbs olive oil (separated into 2 and 2)
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 tbs tomato paste
- 1 8oz can crushed tomatoes
- 8 oz chicken stock (use vegetable stock to make vegetarian)
- salt & pepper to taste
For Grilled Cheese
- 4 slices of brioche
- 2 tbs butter, melted
- 4 oz comté or cheddar, thinly sliced
For Radish & Pea Shoot Garnish
- one small watermelon radish, thinly sliced and cut into hearts
- one small handful pea shoots, washed and dried
- 1 tbs olive oil
- sea salt
Preheat your oven to 400°. Cover your sheet pan with tin foil and place the tomato halves, cut side up. Add the onions to the tray, trying to keep the quarters intact. Drizzle the tomatoes with 1 tbs of balsamic vinegar. Drizzle the tomatoes & onions with 2 tbs of olive oil. Season everything well with salt and pepper. Place the tray in the oven for 30 minutes or until the tomatoes are wrinkled and the onions are slightly brown.
While the tomatoes are cooking, assemble your grilled cheese. Place enough slices of comté or cheddar between the bread so that the entire surface is covered, but the slices don’t over lap. Brush each side of the bread with melted butter. Heat your sauté pan, dry, over medium high heat. You can test the pan to make sure it’s hot by dripping a tiny bit of butter in the middle. One sandwich at a time, place them on the dry, hot pan. Using the lid of the saucepan, press down on the sandwich. This will help the bread brown evenly. Once the first side is brown, flip it over with your spatula. Don’t worry about the cheese melting. Repeat with the second sandwich and set aside.
Once the tomatoes and onions are out of the oven, heat the remaining 2 tbs of olive oil in your sauce pan over medium heat and add the garlic. Leave the oven on at 400°. If the garlic starts to brown, reduce your heat slightly. Once the garlic becomes translucent, add the tomato paste and stir well. Increase your heat to medium high continue to stir for one minute. Add the roasted tomatoes and onions and cook until the mixture thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and the chicken stock and stir. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Add the remaining 1 tbs balsamic vinegar and season with salt. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Return to the saucepan and reheat.
Once your grilled cheese have cooled, cut heart shapes out of the center. Place them on the sheet tray (covered with a clean piece of tin foil) and place them in the oven for 5 minutes or until cheese has fully melted.
Pour the soup into a shallow bowl and top with the hot grilled cheese. It’s ok if the grilled cheese sits in the soup for a few minutes before serving. The bottom will soften, the cheese will melt and the top will stay crispy. Garnish with Aleppo pepper flakes.
If you’re opting for the healthier, gluten free version of this dish, pour the soup into a shallow bowl and garnish with the pea shoots and heart shaped radishes. Pour the 1 tsp olive oil around the garnish and finish with sea salt.
Enjoy the soup with a loved one and then cuddle up and watch a movie! That’s my kind of Valentine’s Day.