4-5 pounds plum, vine-ripe or Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), for drizzling, plus 2 tablespoons
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 cups chicken stock (32 ounces)
1 can Italian fire-roasted tomatoes (28 ounces)
1 teaspoon sugar
10 leaves basil, torn
3/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
8 slices white bread
4 ounces Manchego cheese, sliced
12 slices serrano ham
Pre-heat the oven to 300°F. Arrange the tomatoes on a rack set on a baking sheet so that the heat can circulate around the tomatoes. Drizzle with EVOO and season with salt, pepper and thyme. Roast for 2 hours.
Heat a large soup pot over medium-high heat with two turns of the pan of EVOO, about 2 tablespoons
To the soup pot, add the onion, carrot, garlic and some salt and pepper. Cook, stirring every now and then, for 8-10 minutes, until the veggies start to get tender and slightly caramelized. Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, chicken stock, fire-roasted tomatoes, sugar and basil. Bring up to a bubble and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Puree the soup in batches with the toasted almonds – this with give it a nutty and creamy texture and flavor, without having to use any cream at all!
Pre-heat a panini press or place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Lay down a slice of cheese on four of the slices of bread and top each with a few slices of serrano ham and another slice of cheese. Cap them off with the remaining slices of bread.
Place the sandwiches in the press or a pre-heated skillet drizzled with EVOO and grill until toasted and heated through and the cheese is melted (if using the skillet, butter both sides of the bread, weigh the sandwich down with another pan and flip it over once one side is toasted). Cut the sandwiches up and serve alongside bowls of soup. This is one of many "Yum-o!" recipes – it's good and good for you. To find out more about Yum-o!, Rachael's nonprofit organization, visit www.yum-o.org.