Creamy Tomato Soup

I'm a fan of tomato soup, especially paired with grilled cheese sandwiches.  This soup is easy to make, uses ingredients you can find all year-round, and has a bright tomatoey taste.  It is easily made vegan by swapping the chicken broth for vegetable broth.

Creamy Tomato Soup
Serves 6-8
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
3 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
pinch hot red pepper flakes (optional)
1 bay leaf
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes packed in juice
1 Tbslp brown sugar
3 large slices good-quality sandwich bread , crusts removed, torn into 1-inch pieces (use gluten-free bread for a gluten-free version)
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (check for gluten ingredients)
2 Tblsp brandy (optional)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent, 3 to 5 minutes.

Stir in tomatoes and their juice. Using potato masher, mash until no pieces bigger than 2 inches remain. Stir in sugar and bread; bring soup to boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the wet bread starts to break down, about 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaf.

Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Add chicken broth and brandy (if using). Bring soup to boil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley and drizzle with olive oil. Serve.