Cold comfort: tomato soup and grilled cheese

My daughter Nazrana enjoys a variation on the lunch I liked as a child on a cold day. / AFR photo by Michele Kayal

There’s nothing more American than a snowy-day lunch of tomato soup and grilled cheese.

When I was a kid my mom made what was widely rumored to be wonderful tomato soup. The stock had parsnips and carrots and barley and celery. I loved eating the stewed grain and vegetables, but I absolutely hated the soup. It had fat slippery noodles and I just didn’t like the taste (probably not enough sugar and salt for my Campbell’s-primed palate.) Fortunately, karma has not yet caught up with me, and my own daughter, Nazrana, loves homemade tomato soup. So when “snowquester” hit us here in the Washington, D.C.-area this morning, I knew my maternal responsibilities.

Friends were gathered for a breakfast of red velvet waffles with cream cheese frosting (let’s not kid ourselves: butter, cream cheese and sugar is just “breakfast” frosting.) The frosting was, of course, dyed pink. But the excitement of having what amounts to cake for breakfast couldn’t keep up with the prospect of rolling down the front lawn in snow pants, body held tight like a log. After abandoning efforts at a snow woman (with raisin eyes, a carrot nose and a red pepper “for lipstick”), my 9-year-old and her friends tumbled back into the mudroom.

A few rounds of the count-and-capture game mancala, followed by cards (kids still play War, believe it or not) and they were starving again. I gave them the same lunch my mom gave me, but with a twist: cheese quesadilla stood in for the grilled cheese because my daughter hates “mommy bread,” the bread that I make from scratch every week.

Come to think of it, maybe my karma is coming home to roost.

Makes 6 cups

AFR Tested

Creamy tomato soup

This is my go-to recipe for tomato soup. Adapted from "Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health" by the Moosewood Collective (Simon & Schuster, 2009), yogurt makes it smooth and mellow. Healthy, low-fat and tasty, it's great on a cold day. But it's also perfect chilled during the summer and made with fresh tomatoes.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, or 4 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 2 sun-dried tomatoes
  • Generous dash ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup plain yogurt


In a covered pot on low heat, warm the olive oil and cook the onions, garlic, bay leaf, salt and herbs until the onions are very soft, about 12 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes and pepper. Simmer, covered, until the tomatoes are very soft, about 10 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf. Add the vegetable broth and the yogurt. Puree until smooth and creamy using a hand-blender, or in batches, using a standing blender.

Gently reheat if serving hot. Refrigerate if serving cold.

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4 Responses to Cold comfort: tomato soup and grilled cheese

  1. Elizabeth Judd March 7, 2013 at 10:11 am #

    Looks delicious. I grew up on Campbell’s, but Annie, Izzy, & I now love a homemade tomato soup from Deborah Madison that looks pretty similar to yours. Made biscuits with real cream along with yesterday’s soup for kids at our house, and no one ate them. “Mommy bread” gets a bad rap at our home, too.

    • Profile photo of Michele Kayal
      Michele Kayal March 9, 2013 at 9:17 am #

      Biscuits! I’m so impressed. I have never had success with biscuits — always come out like hockey pucks. Perhaps we should trade – I’ll bring you mommy bread, you bring me biscuits….

  2. Profile photo of Wayne Byram
    Wayne Byram March 7, 2013 at 9:24 pm #

    That soup looks great Michele and thank you for the recipe. The weather is going to turn off cool and rainy here in Phoenix so I’ll try your tomato soup deal. Based on your recipe I would say anytime would be a good time. Thanks again, Wayne

    • Profile photo of Michele Kayal
      Michele Kayal March 9, 2013 at 9:19 am #

      Wayne, it really is a good recipe, and very easy. I will also be posting my mom’s original recipe, the one I mention that I didn’t like (and still don’t, really.) BUT….to each his own. If the weather in Phoenix stays cool (hard to imagine) perhaps you’ll do a tomato soup taste-off for us!