Monday, October 11, 2010
Fancy Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese are broad terms. Tomato Soup can be described as thin, bland, soup poured from a tin can and Grilled Cheese can be a soggy, greasy, American-cheese-filled-white-bread-sandwich OR it can be defined very differently. It can be a gourmet, craveable, comfort food delicacy! I think it was a combination of Bread and Company’s Soup and Fido’s Grilled Cheese that originally rocked my Tomato Soup/Grilled Cheese definitions.
I have tried different tomato soup recipes for years and have finally landed on the one I think is marvelous! It is well-seasoned and lightly creamy, packed with nutrients and chunks of tomatoes. There are several ways you can adapt it to your liking. It has milk in it and has cream as an option- your call on if you want it more bisque-like and can handle the fat, or if you prefer it less creamy. The original recipe calls for hands-full of fresh spinach thrown in, which is wild and I love it, but in this season of young children and many guests in our home, I omit the spinach most of the time. This recipe came from a friend of a friend and was copied from a restaurant cookbook, I believe.
The recipe is a little intimidating at first glance, as there are many ingredients listed, but with a closer look you will see that the majority of them are seasonings, and the others you can easily keep stocked in your pantry. The soup makes a vat- which I cherish as a quality in a soup recipe. It lasts a good week, freezes well and is great to share.
The Fancy Grilled Cheese is pretty straightforward. Since there are only 3 ingredients to this one, you want to choose well, because it will make all the difference. We are big fans of artisan (“crusty”) bread of all kinds- Farm, Baguettes, Tuscan loaves, something with a good crust and a chewy crumb and we like cheeses with some sharpness to them. Often times I put Cheddar and then I add a little of whatever I find in the refrigerator drawer. So, my suggestion is to choose bread you enjoy, cheese that is strongly flavored that you love, and grab a stick of butter. Butter your griddle (or a pan for the stove top), place the bread on the hot surface and add cheese to half of the pieces. Then after a few minutes, put the sandwiches together (so the cheese will melt). Cook and flip until cheese is melted and bread is golden, and you have got yourself one amazing companion to a bowl of soup.
TIP - if you are serving a big crowd you can use jellyroll pans and bake the sandwiches in the oven at 350 degrees. I suggest you melt the butter and brush on the bread when doing using this cooking method.
My son is not YET crazy about soup, though my girls love it (thankfully), but he digs these grilled cheeses! I almost always serve this meal with slices of apples. That way at least the fruit food group is represented on his plate.
We eat this soup and grilled cheese often in the cold months. We've even incorporated it into our Halloween tradition. I love traditions and I am learning how much intentionality it takes to create and maintain them. Thankfully, several years ago we began trick-or-treating and eating with a few friends, and our menu involves tomato soup and fancy grilled cheese sandwiches. We leave the soup on the stove or in the crock-pot and we run around the neighborhood with friends gathering some much-wanted-much-unnecessary candy. We then return to the house to crank up the griddle and make some grilled cheese yumminess while the kids watch Charlie Brown’s Great Pumpkin. This menu along with apples and caramel dip, and some pumpkin shaped sugar cookies make the event a sweet and simple tradition. (I'll be sure to post the sugar cookies, but wanted to go ahead and share the soup and grilled cheese...couldn't wait!)
Tomato Basil Soup (click for printable version)
3 Tbsp olive oil
½1/2 cup onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup white cooking wine
1 bay leaf
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp chicken base
3 Tbsp flour
6 cups V8 juice (or the entire jug)
2 28 ounce cans diced tomatoes, with juice
3 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream, optional
1 10 oz bag fresh spinach, optional
In large pot heat oil and sauteé onion and garlic until light in color. Add wine, bay leaf, basil, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and let reduce for 5 minutes. Next add sugar, chicken base; stir well. To thicken, stir in 3 Tbsp flour. Slowly add V8 juice, stirring over medium heat until you have a smooth sauce. Add tomatoes and milk. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add cream and spinach (if you are adding them) simmer another 10 minutes.
Serves a crowd.