“A world devoid of tomato soup, tomato sauce, tomato ketchup and tomato paste is hard to visualize. Could the tin and processed food industries have got where they have without the benefit of the tomato compounds which colour, flavour, thicken and conceal so many deficiencies? How did the Italians eat spaghetti before the advent of the tomato? Was there such a thing as tomato-less Neapolitan pizza?”
Elizabeth David (1913-1992)
‘An Omelette and a Glass of Wine’, 1984
Comfort food at its best tomato soup and grilled ham cheese sandwich is less than an hour away when you have a couple of cans of San Marzano tomatoes and just a few other ingredients. For the sandwiches a loaf of French bread, Gruyère cheese and the best unsmoked ham that you can find, in this case I found Boar’s Head Deluxe ham just the ticket.
Instead of making my usual roasted tomato soup I took a look around and decided to go easy and quick inspired by and adapted a recipe from Barbara Lynch. Since roasting the tomatoes is not necessary it can be on the table in an hour.
Sandwiches made with a fresh loaf of French bread (not baguette), buttered on the inside with a touch of Dijon mustard on each side you can blend the butter and mustard, but not necessary. Slices of Gruyère and ham complete the filling and for a bit of a twist spread some mayonnaise on each side of the sandwich and grill or use a Panini press until cheese is oozing out the side, slice and serve with a nice cup of tomato soup…
• 1 small yellow onion, peeled, halved, and sliced into 1/4-inch-thick slices
• 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste — we started with 1/2 teaspoon)
• 2 cans whole San Marzano tomatoes
• 1 1/2 cup water or chicken or vegetable broth (I prefer the broth)
• 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
• Kosher salt
• Freshly ground black pepper
• Crème fraîche or sour cream for garnish (optional)