Typically brunch pushes me toward the sweet and not savory. Sky-high pancakes drenched in warm syrup is my go-to whenever meeting up with friends and family. Last Sunday my mom, aunt and I gathered for some much needed catching up. Now it doesn’t hurt that my aunt Kiki is a chef, so the idea of talking and eating was all that more appealing – even with a mild hang over.
We set up the menu theme earlier in the week – Comfort Food. Done and Done. And since I didn’t want to do sweet, there was nothing that would really compliment a cold dreary afternoon other than grilled cheese and tomato soup!
Now my mom and I arrived starving and ready to eat so there was really no time wasted jumping right in and kicking things off with the tomato soup.
1 large leek, white and light green parts thinly sliced
2 bulbs of fennel, thinly sliced
28 oz. crushed fire-roasted tomatoes with juice
4 cups vegetable stock*
½ tsp smoked paprika
2 T olive oil
Add oil and warm. Add leeks and sauté until they are tender.
Add fennel and sauté together until they are both very soft and starting to caramelize, about 10 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and simmer for another 5 minutes.
Add stock, and paprika and simmer for another 10 minutes
Take off heat and cool slightly. Puree in small batches in blender. Garnish with creme fraiche, Greek yogurt and/or harissa.
* In lieu of store-bought stock, simmer leek and fennel trimmings in 4 ½ cups of water for up to 30 minutes for a simple home-made stock. Strain liquid and discard vegetables. For a richer stock, add trimmings from other vegetables, such as carrot, onions (including peels) and garlic. I usually save vegetable trimmings in a ziploc bag in my freezer for this purpose.
While the soup was doing it’s thing, Kiki moved on to the grill cheeziz. Yes I said “CHEEZIZ”…because we went for a spread that added in that savory that I’m so accustomed to having for brunch.
Grilled Cheese Ingredients:
Bread: Now Kiki LOVES Sullivan Street Bakery sourdough bread but any quality bread will do so we went with a Whole Food’s option.
Butter the outside of each slice of bread before grilling.
*Another trick is to use your favorite full-fat (plain or flavored) mayo. for a vegan option, use canola or olive oil. Using a fat such as butter, mayo or oil will ensure a crispy, golden exterior.
We paired a nutty gruyere and creamy brie with roasted red, seedless grapes.
For the second sandwich we paired sharp, white cheddar with granny smith apples. The combination of these ingredients created a balanced pop of flavor and color.
Now for this amazing and a pleasant surprise…trust me, Kiki roasted grapes by tossing them in olive oil, sea salt and cracked pepper and cooking at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes which brought out the sweetness of the grapes – a great complement to the nuttiness of the gruyere cheese.
Another fruit option used were thickly sliced, tart granny smith apples. To prepare in advance, be sure to soak the apple slices in cold water with a squeeze of lemon juice to prevent browning.
Finally, caramelized onions and a peppery green, such as upland cress or arugula pair perfectly with both sandwiches. Now those who know me, know onion are NOT my thing but I did hear it was hit with my mom 🙂
When it was all said and done, we kicked back enjoyed some tv and paired the sandwiches with Brotherhood Riesling which was sweet yet dry. I can’t wait to do this again! I’m hungry just writing about the day.