1In the large heavy bottomed pot, melt the butter and olive oil together over medium – low heat.
2Hold the microplane or grater over the melted butter and oil, and pass garlic over until entire clove is grated into the melted liquid. Stir to throughly incorporate the garlic. It will almost melt away.
3Add the onion and carrot and sauté about five minutes.
4Add the tomato paste and stir to throughly incorporate.
5Add the canned tomatoes & their juices, chicken broth and water. Stir and bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 20 – 40 minutes.
6If using the immersion blender, puree the soup to desired consistency. I like mine velvety throughout, you may want to leave a few larger pieces of the tomato.
7If using a standing blender, puree to desired consistency, working in batches. As recounted in other posts, it is essential not to over fill the blender with the hot soup, as well as to leave a steam release. The lid will go flying otherwise and the soup with it. If using a blender, place all of the soup in a large mixing bowl before beginning the blending. This way you can return the pureed soup to the pot as batches are completed.
8Continue to simmer the soup, adding salt & pepper to taste and a splash of creme and stirring one last time before moving on to the Grilled Cheese…
9Heat the olive oil over low heat in a frying pan.
10Add the slices and cook on one side for 3-5 minutes, until browned, then flip and repeat. Heating both sides will give extra crunch, plus enhance melting once you add the cheese.
11When both sides of the bread are browned, add enough cheese to cover one slice. Place the other slice on top of the cheese.
12Turn heat to low, and cover frying pan with a lid. A lid from a smaller pot, that just covers the sandwich, works too.
13Remove the lid and flip after 3-4 minutes, repeat.
14When cheese is melted through, remove the sandwich with a spatula and set on a cutting board. Cut into bite-sized croutons.
15Ladle soup into bowls and top with the Grilled Cheese Croutons. Bacon bits were an indulgent finisher, fresh herbs would work well too (maybe when it stops snowing…)!