While I was in Hawaii Brian had asked me; “What was the one thing I wanted to eat when I got home?” I knew the answer instantly- Tomato Soup and a Grilled Cheese…and a really good cup of coffee. Brian laughed on the other end of the phone, and said that was easy. It is the really simple things that I long for when I am away from home more than anything else.
Now, I am not sure if I have ever expressed this before; but my husband makes the best Grilled Cheese I have ever had. I have tried many, and they do not compare to his. Brian always seems to get the right balance of cheese and bread, with a slight crunch and gooeyness of cheese that I (along with others) crave. It is perfection, and without a doubt I think it is the best thing he makes. Ask anyone who has tried them.
I love to travel, but sometimes it is really hard on me. I love road trips, foreign travel, weekend getaways, vacations, and family visiting; but being a vegetarian makes it difficult at times. Being in Hawaii and working a kosher kitchen was no different this time around. Although we had access to the hotel staff cafeteria and it was a huge help on this trip; I grew tired of the frozen mixed veggie option and brown rice. If anything, it makes that meal when you are back to reality look so much more appealing and glad to be home. That and a good cup of coffee would do me good. Sorry but everywhere you turned in Maui was a Starbucks, and their coffee it far too weak (even with extra shots of espresso added).
When I arrived home Brian read my mind…first stop our local coffee shop to get a nice strong latte. Next up, home and a long nap followed by laundry and settling back in. Brian had to go into the office and assured me he would make his grilled cheese when he got home. So I started in on a tomato soup and tried to get back into a city state of mind. When Brian got home he made his grilled cheese. That and the soup was a meal fit for a king! Below is the recipe for the soup and Brian’s step by step instructions on how to make the perfect grilled cheese. I hope you all make it and enjoy it as much as we have over the years…I think you will see why I needed to have this when I got home after a two and a half week trip away.
Creamy Tomato Soup (Makes 4-6 serving)
2 tbsp of butter
1 onion, sliced
1 carrot, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
Scant ¼ cup of tomato paste
28 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes
3 cups of veggie or chicken stock
¼ tsp of dried thyme
1 tsp of sugar
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
¼ cup of heavy cream
First, place a 6 quart pot over medium heat and melt your butter. To this add your onion, celery, carrot, and tomato paste. Stir it well and let it all simmer together. You are looking for the onions to wilt and to have the tomato paste coat over all the veggies. Be sure to stir often as the tomato paste may stick to the bottom of the pan.
Next; add in the can of tomatoes (juice and all) along with the thyme, sugar, and stock. Stir it well and if the liquid of the pot does not cover the ingredients you may add a bit of water to be sure that it is all submerged. Stirring often, bring the pot to a simmer and let it all cook together about 20 minutes.
Then, remove the soup from the heat and let it cool a bit. With an immersion blender, carefully puree all the contents of the pot into a smooth consistency. When soup of pureed and smooth place it back over a medium heat and taste. At this point you will want to season with the sea salt and black pepper to your liking.
Finally, when soup is seasoned pour in your heavy cream and stir well. Heat through and ready to serve. Ladle into bowls and serve with the grilled cheese; recipe to follow. You can garnish soup with freshly chopped herbs, I particularly like chives. *Soup can be made a few days head and reheated when ready to serve. In this case I would omit the cream, and add it in when reheating.
Brian’s Grilled Cheese (written by Brian Coonce)
Regarding cheese selection: Swiss provides a well-rounded sharpness and nutty flavor while also achieving the gooey, stringy melt that is so enjoyable in a grilled cheese. While Cheddar provides good flavor especially when combined with Swiss, on its own it typically does not melt well, and is prone to being oily. Provolone, Havarti or Jack work well when combined with Swiss, even Blue or Gorgonzola. Ultimately mix to your preference and experiment!
Sliced bread (Sourdough, whole wheat, or multigrain holds up best in this type of sandwich)
Butter (room temperature)
Parmesan cheese, grated
Swiss cheese, sliced, 3 per sandwich
First, spread butter on one side of each slice of bread liberally so you have an even coating of butter across the slice. Then, sprinkle about half of a tablespoon of Parmesan cheese on top of the buttered bread and if necessary, pat down with the back of a spoon or knife.
Next, preheat a non-stick frying pan to medium heat. While the pan is warming up (don’t let it get too hot!) turn over one slice of bread (Parmesan cheese side facing down) to begin assembling your cheese. Apply your cheese evenly across your bread, breaking up a slice or two if necessary; the even distribution helps melt the cheese evenly.
Then, when ready lay your bread and cheese in the frying pan and top the second slice of bread, butter & Parmesan side up. Let cook for 2-3 minutes, gently lifting a corner of the sandwich to see if your Parmesan and bread have browned and become toasted. Flip your sandwich over to cook the second side and to make sure your cheese is melted all the way through. Adjust your temperature as necessary, lowering it if you need a bit longer time to melt the cheese without burning your bread/Parmesan crust.
Finally; once the second side is toasted, flip the sandwich over one more time for another minute to make sure it is nice and hot when hitting the plate. Remove from pan and let rest on a cutting board for about a minute before slicing and serving. Enjoy!