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DIVAS: Warm and cozy retro meal with a twist

Want to make somebody's face light up? Just say "grilled cheese and tomato soup" and watch them go back to their childhood. Everyone I know has a fond memory associated with grilled cheese and tomato soup. It's the culinary equivalent of a hug from your Mom.

I'd love to serve grilled cheese and tomato soup at a party, but I don't like the idea of getting stuck in my kitchen grilling individual sandwiches while my guests eat in shifts. So I thought, what if I could make one big sharable sandwich? So I've been working on perfecting a giant slab of melty, gooey, crunchy, cheesy goodness. You in?

THE BIG CHEESE

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 25 minutes

What You'll Need:

One loaf Italian or French Bread

12 to 16 oz. cheese – sliced

Butter

Cooking spray

Two baking sheets, foil and a heavy oven-safe pan

 

Here's How:

Preheat oven and two baking sheets to 350°. Slice cheese. Slice the bread in half horizontally. Place cheese on the bottom slice and cover with the top slice. Spread a layer of butter over the entire outside of the sandwich, top and bottom. I used an "everything" loaf so I used cooking spray in place of butter and it worked great. Can you imagine trying to spread butter on top of an everything loaf? Me either. Spray the shiny side of a large piece of aluminum foil. Wrap sandwich tightly, shiny side in. Place sandwich on hot baking sheet and top with the second sheet. Use the heavy pan to weigh it down, like a panini press. Bake for 15 minutes, let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Now that we have a super sandwich we need a superb soup in which to dunk it.

This soup is bursting with fresh tomato flavor. If you've only had tomato soup from a can, you'll be amazed at what you've been missing. I've used San Marzano tomatoes, known for their sweetness and juicy, meaty texture for this recipe. Kroger's Private Selections offers them at store brand price. Score!

 

NOT YOUR MAMA'S TOMATO SOUP

Yield: 4 servings Time: 25 minutes

What You'll Need:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

One medium sweet onion - chopped

1 tablespoon garlic

One pinch red pepper flakes – optional

2 (28 oz.) cans San Marzano tomatoes

½ cup cream or half and half

Salt

Here's How:

In a large sauce pan on medium low heat add the olive oil and butter. Sweat the onion until translucent. Meanwhile, open the tomatoes and run a kitchen scissor through the can to break up the tomatoes. Add the garlic to the onions and stir until fragrant, add pepper flakes. Pour the tomatoes into the sauce pan and stir. Turn the heat to medium and bring to a simmer. Turn heat back to low and simmer for 15 minutes. (Now is a good time to make the sandwich.) Remove the soup from the heat and puree to desired consistency. Use an immersion (stick) blender or puree in batches in a blender. Add cream and salt to taste.

Slice that sandwich and dish up the soup. Dip, eat, repeat.

Fabulous Food contributed by Patti Diamond from Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous! www.divasonadime.com

 

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