As we continue on our fresh herb kick, we recently decided to counteract the cold weather with not one, but two, old-time comfort foods: tomato basil soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. But this wasn’t any ordinary pairing of the two comfort foods – instead of eating them separately or dunking the grilled cheese sandwiches into the soup, the sandwiches acted as the croutons. They were nothing like regular croutons that have a crunch, and instead were mostly soft and chewy. Pan-frying them did give them a slight crunch on the exterior though. The basil provided an extra kick of flavor; tomato basil is a great combination and we recommend pairing the two ingredients whenever possible.
Many individuals with Crohn’s or Colitis avoid tomatoes for several reasons. First, the skin is not so easy to digest. For those who avoid skins, a tomato can be easily de-skinned by boiling it in water for a few minutes or removing the skin after the tomatoes have roasted in the oven (take a look at the picture of our mountain of tomato skins!). Second, tomatoes are loaded with seeds, which can be hard to digest. While it is hard to remove all the seeds from a tomato, it can be done. Finally, the acidity level of tomatoes is a major concern. On a pH scale with 7 as basic, 0 as very acidic, and 14 as the least acidic, fresh tomatoes, canned tomatoes, tomato juice are all in the 3.5-4.7 range. As a comparison, vegetables like carrots, broccoli and spinach have a less acidic pH range of 5-7, while fruits like apples, orange, and blueberries have a range that can be anywhere from 3-5. So overall, tomatoes are not very acidic, unlike orange juice and soda, which are both in the pH 3 range.
The more ripe a fresh tomato is, the less acid the fruit contains. Therefore, choose tomatoes that are slightly soft and are more red than green (usually, red = more ripe, green = less ripe). As for cooking tomatoes, there is conflicting evidence about whether cooking of tomatoes increases or decreases their acidity, but we do know that cooked tomatoes, like those found in tomato soup, contain more of the cancer-fighting antioxidant lycopene than their raw counterparts. According to an article in the well-respected journal Cancer Research, cooked tomatoes have been shown to help prevent cancer ¹. Apparently, the phytonutrients in tomatoes become more concentrated and bioavailable when tomatoes are cooked into a sauce or paste ¹.
Nutritionally, tomatoes are one of the leading sources of the antioxidant lycopene and and also contain a high amount of vitamin C and vitamin A, both of which are also antioxidants. As you may recall from a previous blog post, antioxidants fight free radicals, which are known to cause cancer and other detrimental health problems.
Images and recipe below:
Tomato Basil Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons
Ingredients for Soup:
- 3 lbs Roma tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 (28-oz) can plum tomatoes, with juice
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 4 cups chicken stock or water
Ingredients for Grilled Cheese Croutons:
- 4 slices country white bread
- Butter (enough to spread on each slice of bread)
- 4 ounces Gruyere cheese, sliced
Instructions for Soup:
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss together the tomatoes, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.
- In a large stockpot over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the butter, and red pepper flakes for 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown. Add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme, and chicken stock.
- Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, including the liquid on the baking sheet.
- Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Transfer to a blender or food processor and pulse until it is the texture you like. Season if needed and serve with the grilled cheese croutons.
Instructions for Grilled Cheese Croutons
- If you have a panini press or a grill pan use those appliances to make the grilled cheese croutons. We used a regular frying pan to make the grilled cheese croutons and we pressed down the sandwiches panini-style with another frying pan. Butter one side of each slice of bread and place cheese slices on the unbuttered sides. Grill the sandwiches, buttered sides down, for about 5 minutes until nicely browned. Let sit on a cutting board for about a minute before cutting into 1-inch squares. Serve with tomato soup.
Recipe source: http://phenomenalphoods.com/?p=2945