Thursday, September 27, 2012

Comfort Food: Tomato soup and Grilled Cheese with a Twist!

The changing of seasons from summer to fall is probably the most dramatic for me. I love walking through Cherokee and seeing spontaneous bursts of color in the trees that remind me that I do live in a temperate zone, where trees actually do change. I lived in Andalusia, Spain last year, and let me tell you, coastal pines are beautiful for the first couple of months, but when you expect seasons to change and leaves to change and something to get you into the spirit of making it through a long winter and nothing happens, it gets depressing really quick. On said walk through Cherokee Park the other day, my friend was getting a good laugh because I was flipping out over some crimson and gold all over a tree. Hey, it is something to flip out about!

Anyways, with such delight and dramatic natural change, comes the need for food that warms you up. I prefer vittles that warm the heart and soul as well as the stomach, so today's recipe is Tomato Soup from Scratch and Grilled Cheese with Truffle Oil. Yes, I know, we're getting fancy, but you can't get any more comfortable than this! My tomato soup just takes ripe, red tomatoes and makes them into something amazing; the number of tomatoes depends on how much soup you want. Also, this recipe is vegetarian, but I guess you could add some chicken stock if you don't think this is flavorful enough...hah, as if. Then with the grilled cheese, you can definitely experiment with the cheese type, just make sure it is a good melting cheese--we all love semi-hard cheeses (Manchego is my life), but please, those don't make a grilled cheese, just as Parmesan doesn't...don't try it. This time, I used cheddar--everyone loves a picture of orange grilled cheese :) It's just right.

So, here it is. Perfect for a rainy day like today! Cozy up, stand by the fire of the gas stove for a little bit, and warm yourself down to your very soul with the classic tomato soup and grilled cheese combo.

Tomato Soup from Scratch and 
Grilled Cheese with Truffle Oil
About 5 Ripe tomatoes
4 Cloves garlic
1/2 Minced onion
1T Rubbed sage
Sea salt
Black Pepper
Chili powder
Bread (for crouton-making)
Olive oil
1T Butter

4 Slices of whole wheat bread
4 Slices cheese
Truffle oil
2T Butter

The first thing you need to do is prepare the soup so it can cook down while you are frying up the goodness that is grilled cheese. Chop the tomatoes into small pieces. You can choose to take the skins off or not, I personally like the texture that the skin gives to the soup, as well as the color. If you want to do so, just boil them in water until the skin starts to break and then throw them in an ice bath--the skins will slip straight off. Then take care of your garlic and onion; I like to sliver my garlic and just chop the onion. Take one T of butter and about the same of olive oil and heat in a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat until just melted. Add the garlic and onion to the pot and fry up until translucent and fragrant, add the sage at this point and fry until just fragrant (it releases the herb's magic). The pot should be hot enough by now to add the tomatoes. Stir this beautiful mixture up until well combined and bring to a boil. Then simmer until thickened.

While the soup is simmering, you can make up the croutons! I simply cubed up some bread and I drizzled them with olive oil and salt and pepper on a baking pan. You can herb this up with oregano or sage too if you want. Then dry them out in a low-heat oven until they are crunchy enough, probably 15 minutes. If you want them a little toastier, up the temperature to 325, just flip them halfway through and keep an eye on them.

When your soup has thickened down, it is time for seasoning! Add salt, pepper, and chili to taste, and if you want some layers of flavor, drizzle a good olive oil right before serving. You can also make it creamy by adding way?!

Now for the grilled cheeses! You all know how to do this, but have you ever thought of making your favorite sandwich the greatest piece of bread and cheese that has ever touched your lips? That is where truffle oil will take you. I melted 2T of butter in the mic and I added a splash of truffle oil--trust me, it goes a long long way. Combine that happy mixture and use a pastry brush to brush one side of two slices of bread (the side that will go in the frying pan). Then you heat up your pan or iron skillet, and go to town making a grilled cheese. Place the butter-truffle oil side of the bread down on the heat, place two slices of cheese on top, and sandwich it up with the second piece on top. Flip when it is nice and toasted on the bottom--you might want to control your heat on this one, especially if you are using an iron skillet because they hold heat more efficiently than the average frying pan. I flip mine a couple of times just to make sure that heat is getting to the center and melting that cheese up all nice and gooey.

Finally you combine the Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese into a happy party in your mouth. I put the croutons in the bowl and pour the soup over it, then I cut the grilled cheese into triangles because we all know that sandwiches taste better in triangles. At this point, you should be swimming in the warm, comforting flavors of deeply flavored tomato soup and soft, melty cheese with truffle oil rocking out your taste buds. So good!

Enjoy my friends, and may you smile even as the skies are grey. 

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