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Soup and a Sandwich (October 4, 2012)

Fall is here and the weather's changing; daytimers are full of activities, life is speeding up again after the lazy days of summer. Cooler weather means more than just a salad meal, and what could be more satisfying that a cup of hearty soup paired with a sandwich! Herewith, some yummy suggestions...

We love grilled cheese sandwiches, and have to confess to a childhood version involving Velveeta, whole wheat bread and lots of Hellmann's mayonnaise (spread on both sides of the bread) and grilled to perfection in a small cast iron skillet. The hot, gooey result was paired with a cup of canned cream of tomato soup for absolute Nirvana!

These days that menu has expanded, but a great grilled cheese is still the top of the "A" list! Who better to give us their ultimate recipe than Saveur Magazine's collection, The New Comfort Food: Home Cooking from Around the World, edited by James Oseland! Sure, we still love our North American classics, but today our notion of comfort food is more eclectic than ever. Crunchy Thai spring rolls with a tangy chile-garlic sauce, silky Chinese stir-fried noodles, and tagliatelle with a rich ragù Bolognese all satisfy our souls, and their version of grilled cheese, with its French accent, elevates this old friend to haute cuisine!

However, if you've got diabetes, been warned about your blood sugar, or simply want to watch your diet a little better, then you also really want a copy of Diabetes Comfort Food by prolific food writer Johanna Burkhard and Barbara Selley, the nutrition editor. They've put together a yum collection of soul-satisfying comfort foods which easily fit into a sensible meal plan! Rich creamy soups, classic scalloped potatoes, braised beef short ribs and chocolate swirl cheesecake are among what most of us thought were uh, forbidden!

They've included all the important nutritional information and exchanges with each recipe so you know exactly what you're getting. You'll love reading the soup recipes, and trying to decide which of the 25+ wraps you'll make will be a delicious problem!

Agrrgh. Sandwiches can be very masculine, and we loved poring over Esquire's Eat Like a Man cookbook. As they say on the cover, "The only cookbook a man will ever need," and we add, "Hey guys, this is a terrific book for all of us!" There are more than 100 recipes from many of America's top chefs, and sure, they lean towards the seriously hearty... but who among us hasn't loved such dishes! It's a fun book to give to guys going off to university or moving into their first apartment, or how about the newly wed husband! (Girls, you can't start them cooking soon enough!)

Some of the selections include spaghetti with lobster, oyster stew, steak tacos with guacamole, meat loaf, red beans and rice with an egg on top and of course steak, steak, steak! Soup and sandwiches have not been left out; look for crab gumbo, onion soup Provençal, lobster bisque and a long list of substantial sandwiches! Cooking fundamentals are explained along with useful information on how to host a party, fry chicken, cook vegetables and make drinks! This is a terrific, fun and useful book!

Our good friend and colleague Ellie Topp has written another great cookbook, this time with Marilyn Booth. Fresh & Healthy Cooking for Two: Easy Meals for Everyday Life is perfect for couples, or singles wanting to have a friend over for dinner. Their approach is to start with fresh, often local ingredients and follow healthy eating guidelines; the result is dishes that are tasty, yet simple and easy to prepare... with no leftovers to clutter the fridge! Topp and Booth give you important information with each recipe: preparation and cooking time, nutritional information, food safety tips and loads of colour photographs!

Foodland Ontario always has the freshest ideas as of course they are promoting Ontario edibles! We took a look on their excellent web site ( and found a bounty of delicious seasonal recipes; you'll love their Roasted Garlic and Tomato Soup, a perfect companion to a hearty sandwich.

On today's menu:

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Roasted Garlic and Tomato Soup and the Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Tomatoes are at their peak right now, and what better way to use them up than a homemade tomato soup! Thank you, Foodland Ontario, for this tangy take on an old favourite! "Why yes, I'd love another helping!"

Note: Don't let the amount of garlic scare you. It mellows while roasting. Serve this soup hot or at room temperature.

Serves 4
Preparation Time: 15 Minutes
Cooking Time: 30 to 45 Minutes


  • 1 head garlic
  • 2 lb (1 kg) Ontario greenhouse tomatoes
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) olive oil
  • 1 Ontario onion, chopped
  • 1 Ontario carrot, diced
  • 1 cup (250 mL) vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup (50 mL) chopped fresh basil or parsley
  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) balsamic vinegar
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) croutons


Cut off top 1/4 inch (5 mm) of garlic head; remove any peel that comes away easily. Place garlic cut side down in small foil-lined dish; bake in 400°F (200°C) oven for 30 to 45 minutes or until tender. Let cool enough to handle; squeeze out garlic from cloves into small bowl.

Meanwhile, peel tomatoes; cut in half, remove seeds and chop. In large saucepan heat oil over medium heat; cook onion and carrot for a couple of minutes or until softened. Add tomatoes, vegetable stock and garlic; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until tomatoes are soft. Transfer to food processor or blender; purée until smooth. Return to saucepan; stir in basil, vinegar, cayenne and salt. Serve sprinkled with croutons.

The Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Ahhhhh, trust Saveur Magazine's The New Comfort Food cookbook to come up with the perfect, gourmet grilled cheese sandwich. Any grilled cheese is über comfort food, and this version elevates this old friend to new heights! The French cows' milk cheese Comté is one of the best melting cheeses, and the key to bringing out its mildly sharp, herbaceous flavours is to cook it very slowly in a generous amount of butter over moderate heat, allowing it to relax into a luscious melt – in this case between two thick slices of sourdough bread!

Serves 2

  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 half-inch-thick slices sourdough bread
  • 8 oz. Comté cheese, grated
  1. Spread the butter evenly on both sides of each slice of bread. Put half the cheese on one slice, and half on another. Top each with a remaining bread slice.
  2. Heat a 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium-low heat. Add the sandwiches to the skillet and cook, flipping once with a metal spatula, until golden brown and crusty on both sides, 9–10 minutes each side. Transfer the sandwiches to a cutting board and slice in half with a knife.

Cooking note: Saveur tells us that while Comté makes the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich, other semi-firm cheeses – including Jarlsberg, Fontina and Gryuyère – melt beautifully too!

Tony's wine recommendation:
Chardonnay, lightly oaked



Corn and Red Pepper Chowder and a Steak Sandwich

Hungry? This hearty cool-weather combo is just the thing; start the meal with Johanna Burkhard's Corn and Red Pepper Chowder from Diabetes Comfort Food, follow with a satisfying steak sandwich from Esquire's Eat Like a Man!

Corn and Red Pepper Chowder

Serves 6

  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 2 medium leeks, white and light green part only, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 2½ cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1½ cups frozen or 3 cups fresh corn kernels
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups low-fat milk
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley or chives
  1. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add leeks and thyme; cook, stirring often for 4 minutes or until softened. Do not brown. Stir in broth and corn. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add red pepper, cover and simmer for 5 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
  2. In a bowl, blend flour with 1/3 cup milk to make a smooth paste; stir in remaining milk. Stir in to saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring until thickened. Season with pepper to taste. Ladle into soup bowls, sprinkle with parsley or chives.

Steak Sandwich

Serves 1

  • One 8-oz prime New York strip or rib-eye steak or filet mignon
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, plus softened butter for roll
  • 1/2 cup half-moon sliced red onion
  • 1/2 cup pickled cherry peppers (hot and sweet), sliced
  • 1 cup thinly sliced white mushrooms
  • 1 Tbsp steak sauce, such as A1
  • 1 hoagie-style soft roll, ends trimmed, split
  • Garlic Mayonnaise (recipe follows)
  • 4 slices Vermont white Cheddar cheese (about 4 oz.)
  • Fresh arugula, washed and spun dry
  • Red-wine or light balsamic vinaigrette
  • One 2-inch piece fresh horseradish root, peeled
  1. Grill, broil or pan-sear the steak until medium-rare, season with salt and pepper, and let rest before thinly slicing.
  2. Preheat the broiler, in a sauté pan over medium heat, melt the 2 Tbsp butter until lightly browned, and caramelize the onion. Add the peppers and mushrooms and cook, flipping frequently, until well mixed, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper
  3. Lightly butter the roll and lightly toast in the skillet (buttered side down). Spread the toasted sides with garlic mayo and place on aluminum-foil lined baking sheet. Top with the cheese and melt open faced under the broiler. Remove and transfer to a serving plate. Arrange the steak atop the broiled bread, overlapping the slices slightly and evenly distribute the vegetable mixture, finishing with arugula dressed with vinaigrette. Using the small-hole side of a box grater or a Microplane zester, grate the horseradish root over the sandwich (as when working with raw chiles, do not touch your eyes) and serve.

Garlic Mayonnaise

  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled (or more or less to taste)
  • Pinch of coarse salt
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

Place the garlic cloves on a clean work surface. Using the broad side of a chef's knife, crush slightly, using circular motions, until it becomes a paste. Add the salt and mix.

Stir the paste into the mayonnaise, adding pepper and parsley.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Chilean Merlot, Argentinian Malbec



Hot and Sour Soup and a Catfish Sloppy Joe

Hot, spicy Asian meets hungry male and it clicks! Hot and sour, a favourite in Chinese restaurants, is a lively, robust soup reminiscent of the Szechuan region of China, and it's guaranteed to arouse the appetite for the big, juicy sandwich to follow! We love that the soup is from Fresh and Healthy Cooking for Two and the Sloppy Joe from Esquire's Eat Like a Man... hey, a marriage made in culinary heaven!

Fresh and Healthy author Ellie Topp says, "Don't let the number of soup ingredients deter you. They cook together in only a few minutes!"

Hot and Sour Soup

In Fresh & Healthy Cooking for Two, Ellie Topp's version of this popular soup is lighter than many restaurant versions, but still bursting with flavour. It's become part of our Sunday night favourites list!

Serves 2

  • 1 boneless butterfly pork chop, about 4 oz.
  • 6 small brown or white mushrooms, cut into thin slices
  • 1 carrot grated
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced water chestnuts or bamboo shoots
  • 2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1½ tsp sodium-reduced soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp hot pepper sauce or 1½ tsp hot chili paste
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped

Trim all visible fat from pork and cut into thin slices across grain. Stack slices and cut into thin strips.

Place pork in a large saucepan. Add mushrooms, carrot, water chestnuts, ginger, broth, vinegar, soy sauce and pepper sauce. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix together cornstarch and water. Stir into soup and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes or until thickened and bubbly. Stir in sesame oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish each serving with green onions.

Note: Sesame oil: extracted from sesame seeds, sesame oil has a delicious nutty flavour. Roasting the seeds before pressing gives a darker oil with a stronger flavour. Just a small amount of the darker oil is all that is needed to bring a hint of Asia.

Catfish Sloppy Joe

Rick Moonen, chef at RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, gave Esquire this recipe for Eat Like a Man. He grew up in a large family where Sunday night supper was their favourite, Sloppy Joes! Moonen's first job after culinary school was in Key West, where he learned all about cleaning and cooking seafood, and says U.S. catfish or tilapia stand up beautifully to the barbecue sauce and vegetables in texture and flavour in this recipe. He adds that to preserve the taste and sweetness of the fish, opt for a thick tomato-based barbecue sauce (as opposed to vinegar-based) that goes easy on the smokiness. The result is a tangy dish that appeals to everyone!

Serves 2

  • 8 oz skinless catfish or tilapia fillet, cut into 1/3 inch dice
  • Coarse salt
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 small onion diced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce
  • Unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 oversized burger buns (or other soft rolls), split

Season the catfish with salt. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot (a drop of water will sizzle on contact), add the oil, onion, and bell pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the paprika and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add the catfish and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently so all sides of the fish come in contact with the hot pan. Stir in the barbecue sauce and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer until thick, 10 to 12 minutes.

Butter the buns and lightly toast, buttered-side down, in a skillet; fill the buns and serve hot.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Dry Riesling; Viognier



We wish to thank the following for permission to publish material and photographs:

Formac Publishing Company, Halifax, Nova Scotia, for Fresh and Healthy Cooking for Two, by Ellie Topp and Marilyn Booth. Photography by Jen Partridge. © 2011 Ellie Topp and Marilyn Booth.

Raincoast Publishing, Vancouver and Chronicle Books, San Francisco for Esquire Eat Like a Man: The Only Cookbook a Man Will Ever Need.© 2011 Hearst Communications, Inc.

Saveur, for The New Comfort Food: Home cooking from Around the World, edited by James Oseland. © 2011 Weldon Owen Inc.

Robert Rose, Inc. Toronto for Diabetes Comfort Food by Johanna Burkhard. Barbara Selley, Nutrition editor. Text © 2006 Johanna Burkhard. Photographs © 2006 Robert Rose Inc.

Foodland Ontario. For more delicious seasonal ideas and information, please go to for the tomato soup image.


Download this article in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (115 KB)

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Happily enjoyed by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

Helen Hatton and Ron Morris at Le Caveau des Gourmets in Gigondas




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