Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Smokey Tomato Soup and Colby Grilled Cheese with Chives, Finding our yesterdays in cooking today.

There are few combinations that go together better than grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.

If I were to think about when I was a kid, there were a few meals that would come to mind as favorite things I ate. And this combo was certainly one of them. I have grand memories of sitting down to the table as a little kid at lunch on a weekend and being served a big cup or bowl of tomato soup right out of the red and white can and a grilled cheese sandwich made with white bread crisped in margarine and melty with slices of yellow American cheese oozing out of them.

 Like any comfort food memory it is inextricably tied to the time, place and mostly importantly people that I remember surrounding that food. Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches are the stuff that sweet dreams of childhood are made of. So whenever I eat them no matter the quality I am right back at that round kitchen table with my mother, grandmother Irene, father and brother having lunch and laughing talking and sharing. A food memory, a family memory, a lovely happy moment in time captured in one mouthful of the simplest of foods.

In the forthcoming book I am writing, "Foraging Memory", I explore this phenomenon of comfort food, home and history.  Personal food heritage and it's role in our understanding ourselves and our place in the world.

Although today I make a version of these humble dishes that far exceeds the culinary roots of the my recollection, originally served up from the can and the ubiquitous white bread loaf in the plastic wrapper. The taste memory remains strong and is actually the same. This soup is delicious and the paprika gives it a really round smokey flavor. The chives added to the grilled cheese seems silly but the slight onion flavor really takes the sandwich to another level, truly delicious.

Please enjoy these recipes on a lazy Saturday or Sunday afternoon with your loved ones or dear friends. It is a delicious combo many of us might recall with joy. The joy of happy afternoons spent in the company of loved ones and of a time when we were still making the memories that inspire us today.  

Smokey Tomato Soup
( makes 6 to 8 servings )

1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup dry white wine ( or vermouth )
6 gloves of garlic finely chopped
4 cups good chicken stock, I like stock not broth
3 carrots grated
3 stalks of celery finely diced
2 large white onions chopped
1/2 cup of fresh basil leaves finely chopped
1/2  teaspoon dried Italian seasonings
1/2 teaspoon Cumin
1/4 teaspoon or more to taste smoked paprika
3 (28 ounce) cans of Italian Roma peeled tomatoes
1 pint of cream
1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine melted butter, onions, carrots, garlic and dried spices in a large pot with the olive oil salt and pepper cook vegetables down till they are soft. Add white wine and let simmer till cooked into the mix.
Add Tomatoes and the red pepper flakes, basil leaves and the stock.
Stir mixture and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer uncovered stirring occasionally for about 40 mins.
Take soup in batches and blend till smooth in blender in batches or use an immersion blender
Return soup to pot and heat up and season to taste with salt and pepper.
At this point you can add the cream or not depending on your taste and heat through.
Divide and serve in large bowls garnish with chopped parsley or more basil

Colby Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Dill Pickles (Makes 4 sandwiches)

Eight slices of good quality thick white bread, sour dough or pullman loaf
12 slices of Colby Jack or Colby cheese
1 small bunch chives finely chopped
20 or so slices of good quality hamburger dill pickles
dijon mustard
butter at room temperature


Heat oven to 350 degrees
Very generously butter each slice of bread wall to wall on one side then spread very thin layer of Mayo (this keeps it from burning) and place butter side down on a sheet of wax paper
Heat a skillet to medium heat
Mix a few tablespoons of mayonnaise with the dijon and spread on all slices of the bread
Divide the cheese between the slices of bread
Place the buttered bread 2 at a time in the skillet and cook till each piece is toasted golden and the cheese starts to melt then add a big dallop of the chives blanketing both sides of the bread and cheese
When done hold to the side repeat till all slices are toasted and buttery warm
Put sandwiches together
On a clear baking sheet place the sandwiches and lightly press down with the spatula
Place the sandwiches in the oven and heat for about 10 to 15 mins till the cheese is melted and heated through
Remove from the oven and let stand for about 3 mins. Slice in half and serve with dill pickle chips and the soup.

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