Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Grown Up Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

Its a classic combination; a piping hot bowl of tomato soup and an ooey gooey grilled cheese sandwich.  My grandmother was a famous soup and sandwich chef (and I use that term loosely) when I was a kid.  She had a schedule; Chicken Noodle Soup (the canned kind) and a peanut butter, jelly and BUTTER sandwich on Monday, Vegetable Soup and a SPAM and mayo sandwich on Tuesday (I gagged a little just writing that), Tomato Soup with a Grilled Cheese sandwich (American cheese on that famous VERY white, very soft bread) on Wednesday and so on.  When I got older I was SURE I'd never touch another grilled cheese sandwich as long as I lived and we won't even get into the Spam and fried bologna phobia nor my intense fear of peanut butter mixed with obscene amounts of room temperature butter! 

When I was raising my own children I began to appreciate the wisdom of granny's lunch strategy if not the choice of ingredients.  It was a quick, filling and inexpensive lunch that a busy mom could get on the table in a flash and kids like it (which is important).  It was so easy to make nutritious homemade soups ahead of time and refrigerate or freeze them.  Why would anyone use those canned atrosities as substitute?  As for sandwiches, a good selection of fresh ingredients and REAL cheeses (I do not and never have considered a waxy little square of yellow goo real cheese) are a must.  Don't get me wrong...there is nothing wrong with a good old pb&j once in a while (sans the 1/2" of butter that squishes out when you bite down) but expanding your sandwich repertoire can't hurt right?

Tomato soup is a personal favorite of mine and this one is sweet, creamy and delicious.  It is so simple to prepare as well.  Freeze leftovers in airtight containers and you can have a piping hot bowl anytime.  The simple sandwich I serve it with is a humble grilled cheese...just taken to a more sophisticated level.

Balsamic Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Bisque

2 (28 ounce) cans organic whole plum tomatoes
1 large sweet onion, cut into 8 pieces
6 whole cloves garlic, peeled
3 Tablespoons aged Balsamic Vinegar
2 Tablespoons honey or organic succanat
1 1/2 -2  cups reduced sodium organic chicken or vegetable broth, divided
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups jarred organic roasted red bell pepper pieces, drained
1 cup organic fat free or low fat milk, warmed

1.  Preheat oven to 500F.  Drain one can of the tomatoes, reserving the liquid.  Pour the drained tomatos as well as the can of undrained into a large (3 or 4 quart) glass baking dish.  Toss in the roughly chopped onion and the whole garlic cloves.

2.  In a small bowl combine balsamic vinegar, honey, 1/4 cup of the broth, olive oil and black pepper; mix well.  Pour this mixture over the vegetables in baking dish and stir to combine.

3.  Place baking dish in preheat oven and roast uncovered for 1 hour; stirring occasionally as needed.  The mixture will be thickened darker in color when done.

4.  When roasted vegetables have cooled; spoon 1/3 of the mixture into the blender or food processor.  Add 1/3 of the reserved tomato liquid and about 1/4 cup of the broth, and 1/3 of the red pepper pieces.  Repeat two more times until all vegetables have been pureed.

5.  Pour the puree into a 3 quart non reactive sauce pan and heat though.  Do not boil.

6.  Stir in the cup of warmed milk until blended and soup is hot (not boiling).  If you soup is too thick add additonal broth to achieve desired texture.  Season with kosher salt to taste.

Prepare your grilled cheese sandwich with any cheese you like and vary the other ingredients depending on whats in your fridge.  My choice today is:

6 slices Whole Grain Italian bread, sliced
2 Tablespoons room temp butter (for grilling)
1 green tomato, thinly sliced
9 slices fresh mozzarella cheese (available in specialty cheese case)
6 slices uncured organic Turkey Bacon
9 fresh basil leaves

1.  Spread butter on one side of bread slices.  Place buttered side down in preheated skillet or panini grill.  Top each bottom slice with 3 slices turkey bacon, 3 basil leaves, 3 slices mozzarella and a couple slices of green tomtao.  Top with remaining slices of bread.  Grill until golden brown and cheese is melted and gooey.

This makes 3 sandwiches (2 for my husband and 1 for me)

The sign of a good cheese...the "string factor"

Go on and dip that bad boy in your know you wanna!!

(c)copyright Jill Anderson
The Homegrown Gourmet


  1. Yum, I just did an organic tomato soup post, but I didn't use red pepper. I did think about it, but decided to keep it simple. This looks like it would be a wonderful soup or even a great sauce for fish-maybe...

  2. That looks like the best grilled cheese ever

  3. Thanks everyone! Stella...the red pepper is a very nice addition and you are probably would go well with fish. Maybe even to poach some fish in the sauce??

    I don't go hog wild on cheese Rick...because of the fat. I too am a weight watchers alumni (having lost 115 lbs with weight watchers over 10 years ago). But sometimes that call of fresh mozzarella is just too strong to ignore! The benefit of the fresh is the lower sodium content too.

    And it is a pretty killer grilled cheese Rick. You could use panchetta or even canadian bacon in place of the turkey bacon if you wanted. Another favorite of mine is herbed goat cheese and green tomatoe...that is some good stuff too!


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Fort Myers, Florida, United States