A grilled cheese sandwich sits waiting for a bowl of tomato soup. (Carrie Sanford/for Peninsula Daily News)

PENINSULA KITCHEN: Grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup provide fall comfort food

THE ULTIMATE KIDDO compliment: “Mama, your homemade tomato soup tastes just like the stuff from a can.”

That was uttered more than six years ago by my darling daughter.

We had this soup just the other night, and I think she’d revise her compliment now to say, “This is even better than canned tomato soup.”

Her 12½-year-old palate is becoming much more discerning with age.

She appreciates food tasting more like the ingredients and less like the canned version these days.

Because we’ve finally seen some fall-like weather in these parts and we’re collecting quite a counter-load of tomatoes from our CSA farm share, tomato soup is a welcome addition to our family meal rotation.

You can get away with adding extra vegetables to this mix, too: bell pepper, extra carrots and basil.

The tomatoes are the star of this soup, of course.

I find I have either a plethora or a dearth of fresh tomatoes.

In the case of the former, I remove all stems and greens and freeze tomatoes whole, doling them out judiciously for soups such as this or chili throughout the winter.

I add them frozen and whole to the hot stock.

In the case of no fresh or frozen tomatoes in the house, please do not be tempted by the mealy, pale tomatoes in the grocery store in wintertime.

Instead, use canned tomatoes.

They are preserved at the peak of ripeness.

You’ll be much happier with the results.

Finally, there’s nothing that goes with tomato soup quite as well as a grilled cheese sandwich.

My husband’s trick is to grill both sides of the sandwich in a butter-slathered skillet until it is perfectly golden brown.

He then slides them into a warm oven to finish melting the cheese and keep them hot while I’m pureeing the soup.

We like our grilled cheese cut into triangles for easier dipping into a cup or bowl of soup.

Slicing sandwiches into bite-size croutons to float on the soup is also a delicious and beautiful choice.

Cream of Tomato Soup Adapted from Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything”

1 tablespoon butter

1 medium onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, diced

1 carrot, diced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 cups chopped tomato (canned is fine; include the juices, or do a combination of both)

1 tablespoon homemade pesto (or more to taste)

1-2 cups chicken stock

1 cup cream or half-and-half or milk

Melt butter in a large, deep pot.

When hot, add the onion, garlic and carrot.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the onions begin to soften, about five minutes.

Add the tomato and pesto and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomato breaks up, 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the stock, sti, and cook until hot, then lower the heat and simmer about five minutes.

Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Add the cream to the soup, and puree it carefully with an immersion blender.

Heat just until warm throughout.

Serve with grilled cheese to dip or with croutons floating on top.

___________

Carrie Sanford, who shares the Peninsula Kitchen column with Betsy Wharton, is a mother, wife, educator, artist, activist and cook.

She writes the newsletter for Salt Creek Farm in Joyce during the growing season and volunteers with nonprofits and schools in Port Angeles, where she lives with her husband, Tom Sanford, and their daughter, Abby.

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