Comfort foods are great when it is cold outside! It has not gotten above zero degrees in New York, the Mohawk River canals are frozen, and a great cure for a cold day is a hot mug, a warm belly, and grandma’s crocheted blanket around the shoulders. There is still a long way to go before birds start singing in those barren trees, but who wants to spend a half-hour making comfort food. Mom would have grilled cheese and a hot mug of tomato soup waiting for numb fingers, toes, and rosy frozen cheeks.
As adults, mom’s soup and sandwich could be spiced up a bit. The goal is to find the ultimate grilled cheese and tomato soup combination without those processed cheese slices and condensed soups. Sophisticated palates are looking for more, yet it needs to be quick and easy to make.
Adult flavored cheese mixture
White bread is too bland, instead, a nice sourdough contrasts with the richness of the cheese and rounds out the full flavor of the sandwich. An interesting combination of cheese would be extra sharp cheddar and gruyere. Occasionally it is possible to purchase these two blended in one loaf. If not use a block of each, cut into cubes, and use a food processor to create a smooth paste-like spread.
To increase the flavor of the cheese mixture add some seasoning, such as an Italian herb blend, some minced garlic, salt, and pepper to taste. These seasonings will also be added to the soup recipe that is below. Once the spread is prepared, it is then spread on one slice of bread.
When ready to grill the sandwich, preheat the griddle using a medium temperature to ensure even grilling. Normally, mom would suggest buttering the outside of the bread before grilling, however, use mayonnaise as a substitute. The sandwich will still toast nicely, but the mayo will not burn, unlike butter.
Tips for cooking the sandwich
- on the preheated griddle
- put butter or mayo on one side of a slice of bread and place “buttered” side down
- add the cheese to the same piece of bread
- butter the second slice of bread and place on top with “buttered” side up
Recipe for easy tomato soup
- Begin with a 29-ounce jar of gourmet tomato sauce
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1.5 teaspoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (same as used for cheese spread)
- dash of pepper
- add a drop of a favorite hot sauce or Tabasco
Put mixture in a saucepan and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, until hot. When heating it is important to note the cream in the recipe will scald if brought to a boil. Once transferred into a bowl or mug, garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a scallion.
These savory flavors pair well with the richness of a wine such as a cabernet or merlot. Selecting a beverage that is more earthy than fruity can bring out the fullness of the cheese and tomato. However, a beer that offers a dark hoppy flavor can play off of the saltiness in the sandwich, the tang of the sourdough, and stimulate the taste buds in a different manner. A porter or lager will give increased satisfaction over a blonde style beer.
This is warm comfort food created for the adult palate, made entirely from scratch and prepared in less than an hour.
By Genevieve Kara-Tefft
Edited by Cathy Milne
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Food Network: Rachael Ray – Quick Creamy Tomato Soup Recipe
Allrecipes: Rich and Creamy Tomato Basil Soup
Image Courtesy of Andrew Yee’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License