Jake Cohen’s harissa tomato bisque with challah grilled cheese

The sweetness of challah bread pairs so well with the sharpness of the cheddar and a bowl of creamy tomato soup.
Jake Cohen's harissa tomato bisque with challah grilled cheese (Photo: Matt Taylor-Gross)

If recent news and social media are making you crave Jewish comfort food, this recipe is for you. 

The challah grilled cheese was born long before this soup, as a super cozy way to use up leftover challah. The sweetness from the bread just pairs so well with the sharpness of the cheddar. It’s no surprise I wanted to pair it with a bowl of creamy tomato soup for dipping.

To add an extra layer to this classic, I roast the tomatoes and aromatics with harissa paste — a powerhouse North African spiced pepper paste — for a whisper of smoky heat that permeates every bowl. 

Every brand of harissa is different, with varying levels of heat and spices, so start to play with which one fits your taste. More importantly, try to get ripe tomatoes! If your haul is a little less juicy, you may need to thin your soup out with a touch of water.

Jake Cohen’s harissa tomato bisque with challah grilled cheese

Prep25 minutes
Cook Time55 minutes
Yield4 people


For the soup:

  • 3 lbs ripe plum tomatoes, quartered
  • ¼ cup harissa
  • ¼ cup minced fresh basil
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup heavy cream 

For the grilled cheese:

  • 8 (½-inch-thick) slices challah
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
  • 4 tbsp butter


  • Make the soup: Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  • On a sheet pan, toss together the tomatoes, harissa, basil, olive oil, honey, garlic, onion, and 2 heavy pinches each of salt and pepper to combine. Roast for 40 minutes, until the tomatoes are softened and caramelized.
  • Transfer to a high-speed blender along with the heavy cream and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Keep warm either in the blender with the lid on or by transferring it to a medium saucepan over low heat.
  • Make the grilled cheese: On a cutting board, lay out 4 of the challah slices. Divide the grated cheddar among them, then sandwich with the remaining 4 challah slices.
  • In a large nonstick skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add 2 of the sandwiches and cook, pressing firmly with a spatula and flipping once, until golden brown and the cheese has melted, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to the cutting board and repeat with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and sandwiches. Slice each grilled cheese in half diagonally.
  • Divide the soup among four bowls and serve each with a grilled cheese on the side.

From “I Could Nosh” by Jake Cohen. Copyright © 2023 by Jake Cohen. Reprinted by permission of Harvest, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Read more: Jake Cohen is reviving Jewish cooking, from Instagram to your kitchen

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