April is National Grilled Cheese Month! I have no idea who declares these silly food holidays, or why, but I will embrace any excuse to eat a grilled cheese sandwich. This very special month-long holiday was revealed to me via Tastespotting, and it was later confirmed by another reputable source. Such a momentous occasion inspired me to make a grilled cheese sandwich’s perfect companion: tomato soup. I suppose there’s nothing wrong with a little old school canned tomato soup. Amy’s Kitchen makes a lovely chunky tomato bisque. However, it’s entirely feasible to whip up a whole pot of your own (significantly better) tomato soup for the same cost as a dinky can of Amy’s.
You will find that the ingredients for this soup are similar to marinara sauce. In truth, the final product sort of resembles marinara soup. Personally, I don’t think that this is a bad thing. It’s lovely as soup, and when you get sick of soup, you can add it to your favorite pasta. May I suggest sautéed zucchini and grape tomatoes with spaghetti? Perhaps a soup that tastes like pasta sauce doesn’t appeal to you. That’s fine; you’re can opener awaits. I, however, thought it was delicious, and ate it with grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. Yes, I veered off my original grilled cheese course, but my sandwich could be considered a first cousin of grilled cheese: crusty Italian bread, sharp provolone, Black Forest ham, and baby spinach. In my defense, it was heavy on the cheese, and light on the ham. I don’t think this combination should trigger too many complaints.
Tomato Soup (adapted from Mark Bittman’s recipe)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
½ onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes, with juice
½ teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken stock
¼ to ½ cup half and half
· In a medium sized saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the carrot, celery, onion, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, and sauté, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender (at least 10 minutes).
· Add the can of tomatoes, dried thyme, and little more salt and pepper. Increase heat so the mixture starts to boil gently, and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon, and breaking up some of the tomatoes.
· Add the chicken stock, and simmer for another 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning, and re-season if necessary.
· Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until it is smooth, but leave some chunks if desired. Then add the half and half. Heat the soup through and serve with grilled sandwich of choice.