For the soup:
2 quarts cherry tomatoes, stemmed
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
1 bulb garlic, cloves crushed and peeled
About 3 tablespoons thyme, picked
About 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
Salt and pepper
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
A small handful of torn basil
¼ to ½ cup heavy cream or crème fraiche, optional
For the sandwiches:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
2 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ cup honey
1 round tablespoon Calabrian chili paste or harissa
8 slices good-quality white bread
¾ pound sliced cheese, such as Provo/provolone, mozzarella, or fontina
Preheat oven to 400˚F.
Arrange about 12 tomatoes in a deli container lid cap, cover with a second lid and halve them with the swipe of a sharp knife. Or, halve tomatoes with small paring knife individually. Arrange tomatoes, shallots, garlic, and thyme evenly on 2 rimmed baking sheets and coat each tray with about 2 tablespoons EVOO and season with salt and pepper. Roast 30 to 40 minutes until slumped and brown at edges a bit.
Place stock in a pot and bring to a low rolling boil. Add tomatoes and a small handful of torn basil, then puree with an immersion blender. Reduce heat to low and add heavy cream or crème fraiche to taste, if using.
Melt EVOO and butter together with garlic.
Combine honey and chili paste. Baste hot honey on one side of 4 slices of white bread, add cheese and another slice of bread. Brush the outward facing sides of cheese sandwiches with garlicky EVOO-butter, then grill in hot skillet over medium-low to medium heat until golden and melted.
Serve with the soup.