Classic grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup

Classic grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup

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1 large onion
1 fennel bulb (you could skip this, or replace it with another onion)
1 stick (4 oz, 113g) butter (you could use as little as 1/4 of that)
1 teaspoon celery seeds (very optional)
1/4 cup flour (30g)
2 28 oz (800g) cans of tomatoes (quality matters a lot, and I like Muir Glen in the U.S.)
1 cup (237mL) white wine (very optional)
sugar (if the tomatoes aren’t sweet enough)
tomato paste (if the tomatoes aren tomatoey enough)

olive oil, chili flakes and a garlic clove for the chili oil garnish

Roughly chop the onion and the fennel bulb (reserving the stalks and fronds for later). Melt the butter in a big pot over medium heat and cook the onion and fennel in there for a few minutes until it starts to soften. Grind in some pepper and put in the celery seeds. Stir in the flour, and cook it for a couple minutes. Before anything browns, dump in the tomatoes. If the tomatoes are whole, you can accelerate their cooking by squishing them up. Stir in the wine, if you’re using it. Simmer for at least a half hour, stirring and scraping occasionally to keep anything from burning on the bottom.


For the chili oil garnish, put maybe 1/4 cup (60mL) of olive oil in a small pan and fill it with chili flakes. Drop in the garlic clove and heat it until the garlic just starts to sizzle. Leave it on low heat to infuse while the soup cooks.

When the soup is ready, puree it and then add salt and water to taste — you will probably need a lot of both. Consider the addition sugar or tomato paste to enhance the flavor, or maybe some vinegar if you didn’t use the white wine. If you want it super smooth, use a stiff spoon to grind the soup through a sieve, discarding the vegetable fibers.

Serve the soup with a drizzle of chili oil on top and maybe some of the reserved fennel fronds.


Soften a lot of butter — maybe a tablespoon (30g) per slice of bread. Liberally butter each slice of bread on one side. Heat a nonstick pan over medium, and put in the first slice of bread, butter-side down. Lay on 2-3 slices of cheese (I prefer "American" cheese), and dust on a little garlic powder (that’s not classic — just my trick). Put the second slice of bread on, butter-side up. Cover the pan with a lid or some foil and cook until the first side is brown to your liking. Flip, cover, and cook until the second side is done. (If you want your cheese to be very gooey, splash a little water in the pan before you cover it for the second time.) When both sides are brown, I like to uncover it and flip it a couple more times, just to get both sides hot and dry.

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