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In the Kitchen
’Tis the season: This soup is the perfect ending to a long, hectic day

Photos: Kayleigh Van Vliet Baig

Editor’s note: Kayleigh, who is expecting a baby, is on family leave. We are reprinting some of our favorite “In the Kitchen” columns  while she is on leave. This one was originally published on Nov. 22, 2014. 
Long work days or afternoons filled with holiday lists that only seem to get longer are in need of a perfect ending. I say, ‘Tis the season for soup! Yes, soup.

in the kitchenAll of the gluttonous, decedent and downright delicious food that gets eaten between Thanksgiving and New Year’s gives me all the more reason to indulge in the occasional bowl of soup. I will tell you this, I am not the biggest soup fan, but when it comes to a classic bowl of creamy tomato paired with a perfectly melted grilled cheese, life does not get any better.

One of my favorite things about making a big pot of soup is that it is very versatile. It’s perfect for freezing in portioned containers or keeping hot in the crockpot all day until ready to serve. And of course not only is soup a great crowd pleaser, it’s also perfect for cozy night at home by yourself.

So I’ll take one classic creamy tomato soup paired with the grilled-to-perfection cheese sandwich right over here. They’re an impeccable pair. Cheddar, American, mozzarella — any cheese graciously grilled in between two slices of bread will do just fine. Tomato basil, spicy tomato or classic tomato: my only request is that there are no chunks in my soup. Yes, puréed until it can no longer be considered a sauce, now it is soup, velvety and smooth.

For this recipe, I’ve included a cheesy crouton recipe — perfect for feeling like an adult or feeding a crowd with ease without leaving out the essential cheese and bread combo.

2015_1212_kitchen_tomato_soup_2Creamy Tomato Soup with Crispy Cheese Croutons
Serves 4-6

Ingredients for the soup:
1 large yellow onion, rough chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 28 oz can whole San Marzano tomatoes
16 oz chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup heavy cream
Black pepper

Ingredients for the croutons:
4 cups bread such as sourdough or ciabatta, cubed (preferably leftover or stale)
1 cup grated parmesan, divided in half
2 tablespoons olive oil

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the cubed bread, 1/2 cup of the grated Parmesan, salt, pepper and the olive oil in a large bowl, toss well to coat. Spread evenly on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, flipping halfway through cooking time. Remove from oven and allow to cool on baking sheet.

• While the croutons are baking heat a large soup pot on medium heat, add the oil. Add the onions and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and dried thyme. Stir and cook for about 1 minute. Add in the whole tomatoes. Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes, using a wooden spoon to break down the tomatoes. Add the stock and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

• Using a blender, purée in batches until velvety smooth. Blending each batch for 2-3 min to ensure smoothness. Return to soup pot. Add the cream, stir to combine. Heat on low heat or place in crockpot until ready to serve. Top with crispy croutons then serve immediately.

Kayleigh Van Vliet Baig was born and raised in Riverhead, where she lives with her husband Tahir and their two dogs.

Kayleigh is in her third season as Sous Chef at a private kitchen in Southampton. Not only is she second in command but her main focus is on creating, preparing and executing cold dishes such as salads, hors d’œuvres, appetizers, canapés, pâtés and terrines. Kayleigh has been in the culinary industry for the last 15 years, working her way up in kitchens on the East End. She also is a personal chef.

Look for In the Kitchen with Kayleigh every Saturday on SoutholdLOCAL.com.

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Kayleigh Van Vliet Baig
Kayleigh is a sous chef at the Meadow Club in Southampton. A Riverhead native, she is married and the mother of a daughter born in December 2016. Email Kayleigh