Friday, October 3, 2008

Classic ...

Few things are as comforting as a meal of tomato soup and grilled cheese. Its a classic. It is the stuff of my childhood. Of course, in those days, the grilled cheese was Land 'O Lakes American cheese on white and the soup was courtesy of Campbell's. Naturally, my tastes have matured, though up until a year ago I was still happily tucking myself into a bowl of Campbell's tomato soup every now and then ... until I took a look at the label and realized that high fructose corn syrup was the fourth ingredient listed. Frankly, I was heartbroken. Though, I'd long ago switched to Campbell's Healthy Request - it never occurred to me to look beyond the sodium content and see what else was in it. I haven't been able to bring myself to eat it since. But that doesn't mean I've given up one of my favorite soups. These days, I make it from scratch.

Or, if feeling wicked - and that would be pre-South Beach - I'd indulge in this heavenly combination at Buchon Bakery cafe in the Time Warner Center. Buchon's version of this classic is luscious, decadent and altogether sinful. The soup is thick and rich with the sunny flavor of San Marzano tomatoes and the sandwich? Its exquisite. Oozing with an abundance of nearly liquid fontina and gruyere which alone would be divine - but housed between crisp, buttery slices of Buchon's stunning pain de mie and ... ~swoon~ ... this is the classic combo exponentiated to stratospheric level. I told you it was wicked.

Now, I'm not suggesting that we recreate such wickedness - but we can make an exceptional version of this classic at home. It took me a couple of tries to get this tomato soup recipe right but I'm well pleased with the results. Its so savory and comforting. I do use the San Marzano tomatoes and I think they make a difference. While I call for a bit of cayenne pepper in the recipe, this is not a spicy soup. I've used just enough cayenne to give it the warmth it needs. I believe its essential.

Props go out to my dearest friend, O, for the grilled cheese inspiration. In pre-Beach days, I was making this gc on some lovely, rustic rosemary bread - but alas it was made of white flour so that's out. These days I'm using a hearty, sugar-free whole grain bread and some excellent Gruyere Reserve cheese. I do so love the interest that the rosemary brings, so I've used some chopped fresh rosemary mixed with a bit of Dijon mustard. The sandwich will not taste of mustard, its mainly used as a glue for the herbs. If you're not on the beach, by all means opt for the rustic rosemary loaf and omit the fresh herbs if you like. The combination of the sharp gruyere and tart apples with a hint of rosemary is to die for.

Rich Tomato Soup:

  • 1 tsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 small stalk of celery, diced
  • 1 small carrot, diced
  • 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste (I like Luigi Vitelli brand)
  • one 14.5 oz. can of vegetable broth
  • one 14.5 oz. can of low-sodium chicken broth
  • one 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
  • leaves from 1 small sprig of fresh thyme, optional
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of fat-free Half and Half, optional
Melt the butter and olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, celery and carrots and saute for approximately 4 to 5 minutes or until the shallots are translucent and the celery has begun to soften. Do not allow the vegetables to brown.

Add the Kosher salt, some ground black pepper and 1/8 tsp. of cayenne pepper. Stir to combine. Add the tomato paste and stir well, coating the vegetables with the paste as it melts. Add vegetable broth, chicken broth and crushed tomatoes and stir well to combine. Add the thyme, if using. Raise the heat and allow the soup to just come to the boil, then lower the heat, cover and allow the soup to simmer for 30 minutes or until the carrots have softened, stirring occasionally.

Remove the pan from the heat and, using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. (Alternately, you may use a blender if yours is not anemic like mine.) Return the soup to the stove and add the half and half, if desired. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if desired. Do not allow the soup to boil once the cream has been added, just let it simmer on low. Serve and enjoy!

Grilled Cheese with Apples, Gruyere and Rosemary:

  • 4 slices of sugar-free whole grain bread
  • 1 1/2tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Some sharp Gruyere cheese, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
In a small bowl, combine the Dijon mustard and rosemary, stirring well to blend. Spread a bit of the herbed mustard on one slice of the whole grain bread. Top with some thinly sliced gruyere cheese to cover, then layer on some slices of apple. Top with additional cheese and the remaining slice of bread. Reserve. Repeat the steps for the second sandwich.

Heat the oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add the sandwiches and grill, turning as necessary until the sandwiches are brown and the cheese has melted fully. Serve and enjoy!

Notes: I have used a bit of butter in the soup but you can certainly use olive oil alone. I happen to think a bit of butter is necessary in tomato soup, and used sparingly I think its fine. Do as you see fit. As for the Half and Half - again the choice is up to you. I use only 2 tablespoons of fat-free Half and Half to enrich the soup, as I prefer the tomato flavor to dominate. If you prefer a creamier version, by all means add more - or, if you're not fat-averse, you could opt for some light cream. As for the sandwich, I don't use much cheese and typically I can only eat half ... its very filling!

Pair this grown-up grilled cheese and tomato soup with a crisp, green salad and I can't think of a better way to usher in the first cool nights of Fall. Its a heavenly, soul-warming meal. I hope you'll try it!

Bon appetite!


Miss Caught Up said...

Are we related? lol I have a weakness for tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Oh, boy...

The Diva on a Diet said...

Who doesn't? C'mon over for lunch, MCU, I'll set an extra place! :)

Deb said...

Wow! The quintessential fall cool day meal - you have hit the nail on the head with this one Diva. Again, can't wait for it to be cool enough to eat it here.

Maybe Sharron wil make her fabulous butternut squash soup for me when I come to Ct.



I had bacon and lentil soup yesterday which was thick and interesting. Tasted nice with a bread bun though! I think I'll stick with good old tomato though. Chillis give it an extra zing!

Scarlet xx

Michele said...

I bet the San Marzano tomatoes make this soup heavenly. I must try! My grilled cheese will be a nice sharp farmhouse cheddar with onions on my homemade honey wheat bread. Thanks for suggesting my Sunday lunch. :-)

susan said...

Thanks for the recipes, I will be back! Love the grilled cheese, except for the mustard. Even though there's no such thing as winter where I live, it can get cold and comfort food seems so inviting.