If you are serving a milchig Chanukah consider this soup as a starter. Its rich and delicious and a new favorite. The saffron gives it a little twist. You can make the soup pareve by substituting soymilk or pareve milk for the heavy cream and using croutons instead of the grilled cheese croutons.
For the soup:
3 tablespoons good olive oil
3 cups yellow onions, chopped (2 onions)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
4 cups pareve chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
Large pinch of saffron threads
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup orzo
1/2 cup heavy cream (or make it pareve and use pareve milk)
For the croutons:
4 (1/2 -inch-thick) slices country white bread
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 ounces Mozzarella cheese, grated
In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in the stock, tomatoes, saffron, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, fill a medium pot with water, add 2 teaspoons salt and bring to a boil. Add the orzo and cook for 7 minutes. (It will finish cooking in the soup.) Drain the orzo and add it to the soup. Stir in the cream or pareve milk, return the soup to a simmer, and cook for 10 more minutes, stirring frequently.
Serve hot with Grilled Cheese Croutons scattered on top.
For grilled cheese croutons:
Heat a grill pan or skillet. Place the four slices of bread on a cutting board and brush lightly with the melted butter, being sure to butter the corners. Turn the slices over and pile Mozzarella on two of the slices. Place the remaining two slices of bread on top of the cheese, buttered sides up.
Grill the sandwiches in the pan for about 5 minutes, until nicely browned. Place on a cutting board, allow to rest for 1 minute and cut into 1-inch cubes.