Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Michael Symon’s Spinach and Feta Grilled Cheese with Tomato Soup 10.11.11

This is one fancy toasted cheese sandwich!

It was part of an Iron Chef throwdown featuring Michael and Mario Batali (using guest judge, Marimoto).  While Mario's sandwich looked delicious (An Italian Ham and Cheese), it took some pretty exotic ingredients, fennel Salami, Fontina and pickled peppers.  Stuff I rarely if ever have in my pantry.  I hate the idea of shopping to make a sandwich.  And since I had just used up the last of my summer basil to make some pesto, I had a bit of pine nuts, the only luxury item I usually do not stock in Michael's sammy.

BTW, Marimoto whimped out and did not choose a winner of the "contest".  Sure, it's all in fun, but if the producers are going to go to the trouble of having a guest, doing the groundwork for a contest and teasing us with the tasting; just felt a little cheated.

Michael had a clever addition to his sandwich.  The assignment was to make a sandwich in 5 minutes (easy enough when you have all the ingredients mise en placed and pre-cut).  Michael, in true Iron Chef fashion, added a quickie tomato soup as a garnish for the sandwich.

I mean really, what's more "all-American" (the theme for the day) than grilled cheese and tomato soup?

I did need to fudge a bit with the ingredients to the soup.  I made mine extra thick, almost a dipping sauce for the sandwich.  Michael's recipe calls for a can of tomato puree.  I neither had any, nor have I ever seen this in the store.  So, I assumed and used a can of diced tomatoes and then used my wand mixer to puree them myself.

You can see Michael's recipe on The Chew website by clicking HERE.

Here's what I did...

1 can of diced tomatoes
1 can of tomato paste
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup cream

Heat the diced tomatoes in a sauce pan (do not drain, water and all) until the juices begin to simmer.
Add the tomato paste and mix well
Add the seasonings and continue to simmer
Add the cream to desired consistency and creaminess

The soup really did come together in just 5 minutes.  This is a gem of a recipe.  Uses ingredients I always have in stock, the cumin really shines and the thick dipping sauce I made can easily be thinned by leaving out the tomato paste.  5 minute tomato soup... I love it!!!

As to the sandwich, equally a winner!  Kind of a Greek toasted cheese.  I made the sandwich exactly as Michael recommends on the website (and in the show), click HERE.  He does saute his spinach in butter.  While indeed tasty, I think i would just use a nice extra virgin olive oil next time.

Also, pine nuts... HATE EM.  Not for the taste, but for the outrageous price.  I happened to have a small handful left from a pesto I had made a couple of days ago.  Ordinarily I never have these in stock.  Just a matter of timing that I had this luxury budget busting ingredient on hand.

Next time I make this with walnuts or pecans.  You would lose the total Greek-ness of the recipe, but move this to a lunch sandwich made with ingredients in your pantry.

And the Feta was AMAZING!

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