We were predicted to get some snow last Thursday night. How much was anyone's guess since those poor Boston weathermen can never get their forecast right when it comes to Cape Cod. For a previous snow storm, they said we would get a possible 4"-8". We ended up with 15". Go figure.
Val is out in CA visiting the little Hardings otherwise I would ask for her prediction. Anytime of year, summer hurricane to winter blizzard, hers is always spot on. From years of listening to local radio broadcasts and watching the Providence, RI news station, she has honed her skills for combining all the information: direction of the wind, tides and temperature. She has been on top of whether or not we would have school in the morning, if my father would likely be called out to fix a broken pole or downed wires and most importantly, if she will have to take any precautionary measures to protect her precious garden.
I now attempt to do the same. Not so much for the above mentioned reasons. I am most likely to check the wind speed and the amount of sunshine for summer beach days. It's important to know which side of town will provide the most hospitable venue for a day by the ocean. No one wants sand blown into their tuna sandwich at the beach.
So, Thursday night I was on my own. At least now with computers and phone apps, I can study the Doppler myself (Thank you, National Weather Service!) and come to my own conclusions, which I can only hope will be close to what Val would tell me if she were here to interpret the data. But, if my predictions were off, I knew I will still be o.k. After all, I am my father's daughter: I always have a full tank of gas in my car, a sturdy metal snow shovel, a 5 gallon bucket full of sand and salt and plenty of milk and bread. By now, you all know I have more provisions on hand than just milk and bread. I had all my supplies for this easy tomato soup, too. And of course, cheese and butter for grilled cheese sandwiches.
Simple Tomato Soup
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium sized onion, diced
salt and pepper
2 large cans whole tomatoes (28 oz. each) I use Pastene
1 cup chicken stock
1 bunch fresh thyme (or 2 teaspoons dried)
1-2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream or whole milk
crushed red pepper
fresh herbs for garnish (parsley, thyme or chives)
Melt the olive oil and butter in a large dutch oven or stock pot on medium heat. Add the diced onion and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until onions are softened and slightly caramelized on edges. Add the 2 cans of tomatoes, chicken stock and thyme (if fresh, tie in a bundle). Heat through. Mash tomatoes with a potato masher if you like chunky soup or blend with an immersion blender (you can also transfer the soup to a regular blender) for a smoother soup. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar, taste and add more if desired. Add the salt and pepper. Remove the fresh thyme stems and discard. Add cream and stir. Heat through and serve. If you like a bit of spice, garnish with a pinch of crushed red pepper. Also garnish soup with any herbs you like. I always use chives in the winter as these are my only herbs that usually survive indoors.
Our favorite accompaniment to this soup is a classic grilled cheese sandwich. Here is how I make mine:
Classic Grilled Cheese Sandwich
2 slices Val's Farmhouse White Bread or Pepperidge Farm brand
butter, room temperature
2 slices mozarella cheese (about 2 oz)
2 slices cheddar cheese (about 2 oz)
Heat a griddle on medium high. Butter both slices of bread on one side each, being careful to spread butter to the edges. Place butter side down on griddle. Layer cheese evenly over the slices of bread. 2 oz. on each side. Place a domed pan cover over the slices of bread so that the cheese melts. Check often to make sure the underside (butterside) of the bread is not burning but is turning golden brown. Once the cheese begins to melt and the butter side of the bread is golden, put the sandwich together and turn the heat to low. Let the sandwich rest under the cover until the cheese melts a bit more. Cut and serve immediately.
Alternately, to make numerous sandwiches, begin with oven preheated to 250 degrees. As you make each sandwich, transfer to a cookie sheet and place in the oven to keep warm until all sandwiches are completed and ready to serve.