Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fall Favorites: Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese

What goes better with gray, chilly, drizzly weather than a hot bowl of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich?  Not much, other than maybe a hot bowl of homemade tomato soup, and a grilled cheese sandwich with real cheese on it instead of that processed yellow "cheese food" stuff we call American Cheese.  Isn't that just a testament to our times?  The quick processed, unidentifiable ingredients, imitation colored "cheese" is American cheese.  We're too impatient to take the time to actually make cheese.  Instant gratification and everything is disposable.  It irritates the snot out of me.

Anyway, where was I?  Tomato soup and grilled cheese, right.

Even if you are one of those who require instant gratification, you can have this dinner in about 20 to 30 minutes.

The recipe I used called for:

1 tsp dried Basil
3 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes
3 c chicken broth
1/2 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic (or a tsp minced, or about 1/2 - 3/4 tsp dried)
2 tsp olive oil

Get a pot.
Putt the olive oil in the bottom.
Saute the garlic till it's fragrant.
Throw everything else in the pot, bring it to a boil, turn it down, and let it simmer for about 20 minutes.

You can leave it at that, or you can put the soup in a blender and puree it to get a smoother consistency.  Too easy!  If you don't want to use canned, you don't have to.  Stewing tomatoes couldn't be easier.

Get a few tomatoes, put them in a pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil.  When the skin starts to blister, turn off the heat.  At this point I rinse my tomatoes in cold water.  It seems to encourage blistering, and it'll keep them from continuing to cook from their own internal heat.  The skins peel right off (I personally don't like cooked tomato skins.  They're tough and awkward.), or you can leave them on.  Dice them up, and ta da!  Diced stewed tomatoes.  I recommend doing the dicing in a bowl, otherwise you lose all your juices.

Some changes I plan to make to the recipe -  The soup is bland.  Yes I know, tomato soup isn't exactly a riot of flavors in your mouth.  The store bought stuff honestly tastes about as spectacular as ketchup.  (ick)  But it doesn't have to be boring!  Next time, I am adding some onion  1/4-1/2.  I think a whole onion would be a little much for this size pot of soup.  Or maybe I'll double the amount, use a whole onion, and freeze some for later.  I'd also put in a shake or two of tobasco sauce, or a dash or two of red pepper.  It also needs a touch more salt (for my taste).  A bay leaf would be good, too.

But wait!  I forgot the grilled cheese.  I often make the (inaccurate) assumption that everyone has at least the basics.  I consider grilled cheese a basic.  It's as basic as scrambling eggs.  I was three or four years old when I started learning how to scramble eggs and grill sandwiches, and I often just imagine that's how everyone does it.  I am most often very mistaken, and I have to remind myself of this constantly.

Grilled Cheese:

Butter (you can use margarine, but I don't recommend vegetable oil or shortening.  It just doesn't taste good and seems to leave the sandwich much greasier)
Cheese - any kind of cheese will work.  Have fun with it, combine several cheeses, make a pizza grilled cheese with pepperoni on it.  Shredded cheese doesn't work out as well, though, because it becomes a mess when you try to turn the sandwich over.

Heat a skillet over medium heat for a few minutes, drop in a small pat of butter or margarine (just enough to coat the skillet.  You're not trying to deep fry your grilled cheese).

I usually assemble my first sandwich while the skillet is heating up.

Set the sandwich in the skillet and wait.  Patiently.  Don't constantly flip it over and over, because all that does is make your sandwich soggy and greasy, not toasted.  When the bottom of the sandwich is nice and toasty brown, flip it over carefully so you don't end up with your cheese spilled into the skillet.
Wait... patiently.  When the other side of the sandwich is nice and toasty brown, put it on a plate and enjoy! I love to dunk my grilled cheese into my tomato soup.  It's so yummy!!

Grilled sandwiches aren't limited to cheeses (obviously).   If you want to put other stuff in there, go ahead and try it out.  Put a fried egg in there, and have a grilled ham, egg, and cheese.  Try different combinations of cheeses.  Sprinkle your bread with garlic before you grill it, and put mozzarella cheese in it.  It'll be like cheese sticks with marinara sauce when you dunk it in your tomato soup.

I have to stop now.  I am getting hungry, and I just had breakfast.

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