Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup with Smoky Caprese Panini
- 2 large red bell peppers
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 small carrot, peeled and chopped
- 2 small celery stalks, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- Salt and pepper
- 1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes (28 ounces)
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 8 slices Tuscan bread
- 1 ball freshly smoked mozzarella cheese (16 ounces), cut into 16 thin slices
- 1 large ripe tomato, cut into 8 thin slices
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
Char the peppers on all sides over an open flame on a gas stovetop or under a hot broiler (with the oven door cracked to avoid steam buildup in the oven). Place the charred peppers in a bowl, cover and let them rest until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the EVOO in a soup pot. Add the garlic, carrot, celery and onion to the pot and season with salt and pepper. Cook to soften the vegetables for 10 minutes, then place in a food processor with the diced tomatoes. Seed and peel the peppers and add to the food processor. Puree the mixture until smooth, then add back to the soup pot and stir in the stock.
Heat a large heavy skillet or panini press. Make sandwiches with two slices of cheese on each slice of bread and two slices of ripe tomato per sandwich, seasoned with salt and pepper and some torn basil. Stack the sammies together and add to the hot skillet or press. If using a skillet, top with a second smaller pan and weight the pan down with heavy cans. Press the sandwiches to toast and melt the cheese, a few minutes on each side or 5 minutes in a hot press.
Serve the soup with the sammies.