Monday, August 2, 2010

Comfort Food

I am a bit of an emotional eater.   I think celebrations are made better (and sometimes even more memorable) by good food.  I think pity parties can be turned around by no less than a pint of decadent ice cream or a pan of homemade brownies.  Basically, I eat when I'm happy, I eat when I'm sad, I eat when I'm lonely or bored (are you sensing a pattern here?).  The only time I don't eat is when I am nervous about something (like right before I fly, or about to go into a social situation where I don't know many people).  So it should come as no surprise that I really dig comfort food.

This weekend, I was struck with a major desire for one of my favorite comfort meals, grilled cheese and tomato soup.  I'm not sure if it was the grey weather we were having or my premonition that Price's teething illness would be striking shortly (and yes, I am quite the toothsayer- hahaha- we are currently in the midst of upper molaritis) or just the fact that my body was longing for soup since it's summer ALL.THE.TIME and I just needed to feel a season change, even if it was only temporary.

Of course, once my taste buds were sending signals to my brain that I had to have grilled cheese and tomato soup and I looked outside and saw mybasil plant begging me to pull some leaves, I also knew I wasn't gonna be ok with a can of Campbell's or a slice of American cheese slapped between a couple slices of bread.  Nope, I knew it was time to pull out two of my quickest, easiest and most impressive and wholly crave satisfying recipes in my arsenal.  I'll share them with you, but while your lips will thank you, your hips may not!  This is not a low-cal, low-fat meal (although it could be slightly better with one some modifications that I'll share with you)-  don't say I didn't warn you!!

Chunky Tomato Basil Soup (think La Madeleine)  & The MOST AMAZING GRILLED CHEESE.EVER

 For the Tomato Basil Soup you will need: salt, black pepper, red pepper, cream (or for a lighter version half and half or for a seriously lighter version, low-fat milk- but really how comforting is low-fat milk?), and

1/2 stick of butter

1 small onion chopped

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 large can of tomatoes (diced are ok, these are what I had on hand)

about 1/3 cup of fresh basil, chopped (for all of you herb enthusiasts out there, this is Thai basil because that is what I have growing in abundance right now. I prefer a sweet basil for this recipe, but the Thai basil wasn't bad)

To make the soup, sauté butter, onion and garlic until onions are soft and translucent.

Add the tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper to taste (more pepper than salt and less than a tsp of each to start with, you can add more at the end if needed) and about 3 shakes of crushed red pepper flakes.

Cook on medium-low heat until gently boiling. (This is a great time to start the grilled cheese sandwiches).   Stir often (if using whole tomatoes, when stirring, smoosh the tomatoes a little to get the juices out).  Once the soup is boiling, transfer to a blender or food processor (my blender broke before we left Ohio, on account of crushing ice one too many times for margaritas  smoothies so I had to use my food processor, the blender worked better!!)

Puree soup so that all tomatoes are broken down.  Then add about 1/3 cup of cream (if you're not into dairy, you probably quit reading a long time ago since this recipe called for cream, but you could use a veggie stock, but the cream- ohhh the cream- it's what makes this so much better than canned soup)  And puree to your desired consistency.  (I leave mine a little chunky, slightly less chunky than salsa)

Return to pot and simmer on low heat until you are finished making your AMAZING Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (adapted from Taste of Home's Ultimate Grilled Cheese)- Thank you Kalina for describing these sandwiches so well several years ago that I was able to find the recipe on-line and have been making them ever since!  These sandwiches are actually a great make ahead food.  You can make the cheese spread and refrigerate until you are ready to grill the sandwiches.

For the sandwiches you will need:
About 10 pieces of bread (a thick bread like Italian or French is better than regular sandwich bread, trust me, I know from recent experience), 1/4 tsp season salt (I used Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb spice blend), 1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, and because I wanted a teeny, tiny little zip- 1/8 Tony's Creole Seasoning.  You'll also need

the other half of the butter left over from the soup, softened

one block of cream cheese and one green onion

1/3 cup of mayo (if you don't like mayo- Shauna- use 1/4 cup.  You probably won't taste it even using  1/3 of a cup, but you need it to bind everything together.  Don't let the mayo stop you from making this sandwich!!)

2 cups of grated cheese- it doesn't matter what kind or how many types you use.  I did a sharp cheddar and monterey jack.  It's also great with a pepper jack or swiss, what ever you like!

Combine all of the above ingredients (except bread and butter) in large bowl. (If you are not going to make sandwiches immediately, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.  Definitely keeps well over night).

Once everything is combined, spread on 5 pieces of bread and top with remaining pieces of bread (there will be some cheese spread left over, stick it in the fridge and use it as a cheese dip with crackers the next day).  Butter the outside of the bread and cook on griddle or in frying pan or however you usually cook grilled cheese...

I did not have good bread!!!  I made them again the next day using my leftover spread and put them on hamburger buns, open-faced under the broiler and the bread really does make a difference.  They are too rich without a thick bread or soup to dip them in.

Ooey, gooey!  Yum, yum.  

Nothing like dunking grilled cheese in tomato soup.  I felt like I had just put on my favorite sweater (which I haven't worn in almost a year since living in the tropics really doesn't allow for much sweater wearing).  It soothed my soul until I thought about the fat content, which is probably why I volunteered to mow our lawn today.

What's your favorite comfort food?


Chef Dennis said...

now were talking you can't have tomato soup with out having grilled cheese!! and your grilled cheese looks so very very good!

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