Friday, October 18, 2013

Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese - All Grown Up

We had tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches umpteen times as kids - canned soup and water, plus white bread and pasteurized cheese slices.  Easy, quick, cheap, and something every kid will eat.  So when I came across these recipes I had to laugh - it was like childhood all over again except at warp speed.  I was first attracted to the homemade fresh cucumber pickles on the toasted cheese sandwiches - both the fact that they're freshly made, and that they're on a cheese sandwich in the first place.  The recipe suggested that the sandwiches go great with tomato soup, so I dug out my favorite roasted tomato soup recipe and voila!  Third grade lunch, all grown up.

One of the interesting things about the tomato soup recipe is that you can make it year-round with whatever plum tomatoes you find in the produce section because they're roasted to bring out their flavors, not to mention combined with chicken broth, tomato paste, red wine and a touch of cream.  How can you go wrong? It's a full-bodied, slightly chunky tomato soup that clearly has never seen the inside of a can.  I always use low-sodium products whenever possible, and they make a big difference in the sodium level of this recipe because chicken broth and tomato paste are both high in sodium if you use the regular products.  If you use low sodium products you'll need to add a little salt at the end but that's OK.  Definitely don't add salt until you taste the soup either way.

The cheese sandwich is equally interesting - dark rye (or pumpernickel) bread, sharp white cheddar cheese, mustard, and those homemade pickles.  The fresh cucumber pickles could also be served on any roast beef or pastrami sandwich (even burgers or brats) and are worth printing the recipe in and of themselves - fresh cucumbers briefly marinated in white wine vinegar, sugar, horseradish, Dijon, and fresh dill. 

Together with the dark rye and white cheese they have a Scandinavian feel.

We recently had this combination on a chilly, rainy day and really enjoyed the flavors.  If you made the soup in advance it would be a great and fast weeknight meal.

Roasted Tomato Soup
Serves 4

Note: because the tomatoes are roasted to bring out the flavors, this recipe can be made at any time of the year.

1.5 lbs fresh plum tomatoes
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
½ teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
¼ teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
½ cup finely chopped onion
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
¼ cup dry red wine
¼ cup heavy cream
1/4 cup low sodium tomato paste
Sugar to taste (approx 2 teaspoons, depending on the acidity of the tomatoes)
Salt and pepper to taste (approx 1 teaspoon salt if using low sodium tomato paste and low sodium chicken broth)

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Core tomatoes and halve lengthwise. Place cut side down on a shallow baking sheet with sides and brush generously with 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle with oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Roast tomatoes until the edges are charred, about 20 minutes. Scrape tomatoes, oil and herbs from pan into a food processor and process until not quite smooth.

In a saucepan, cook onion in remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil until translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Whisk in roasted tomato puree, broth, and wine, then whisk in tomato paste. Add the cream while whisking. Taste and add sugar if necessary. Add salt and pepper to taste and bring soup to a simmer. Thin with additional chicken broth if desired.

Open-Faced Cheese Sandwiches with Fresh Cucumber Pickles
Makes 4 sandwiches

Note: these cucumber pickles would also be great on ham or roast beef sandwiches, or burgers and brats.

½ English cucumber, very thinly sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon prepared horseradish
4 slices dark rye or pumpernickel bread
4 slices sharp white cheddar cheese
Butter and Dijon mustard

Place cucumber slices in a strainer; sprinkle with salt, tossing to coat well. Let stand for 15 minutes, then rinse and pat dry with paper towels.

Combine vinegar, sugar, dill, 1 teaspoon mustard, and horseradish in mixing bowl. Add cucumber slices and toss to coat. Let cucumbers stand a minimum of five minutes, or cover and chill up to one day. Cucumbers will softer slightly as they marinate.

Spread one side of each slice of bread with Dijon. Heat 2 teaspoons of butter in a large nonstick pan or griddle over medium heat. Add bread, mustard side up, and top each slice with a slice of cheese. Toast until cheese is melted and the bread is golden brown and crisp on the bottom.

Divide sandwiches among four serving plates, top with cucumbers, and serve.

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