Tomato Fennel Soup & Grilled Gouda Sandwiches

Tomato & Fennel Soup Simmering on My Stove

First off, I stole this idea and recipe... it was brutally cold on Sunday here in Dallas and tomato and fennel soup with grilled gouda sandwiches sounded wonderful and easy.

Ronda Carmen at All the Best publishes soup recipes every Sunday, and I thought I'd try this one, photograph it, and tell you how it turned out. Here's her post with the recipe.

Here's how mine turned out:
The recipe calls for the soup to be pureed in small batches in a food processor. But if you have one of these handheld gadgets by Cuisinart, you can do it right in the pot. No heavy lifting of hot pots or the slowdown of doing it in batches. The gadget was invented by a chef and I can see why.

I love grilled sandwiches of any kind. I used rustic, whole wheat flour bread and gouda. It's the ground red pepper, garlic and Dijon mustard that make this sandwich more sophisticated than a plain old grilled cheese.

The recipe called for four sandwiches, which I stupidly cut back to two. Then I had to share one. I could have made six and not shared any of them, they were that good.

I love setting beautiful tables. While I have various kinds of china, I always end up using the most simple white, because food looks its best on white. Any chef will tell you that. The shallow soup bowls are Royal Doulton bone china, but the big porcelain chargers under neath are from World Market. Last I was there they still had them. My porcelain soup tureen is vintage, probably from the 80s or 90s, and the ladle is a fantastic 19th century Ironstone faux bois piece I got on eBay. It's one of my favorite things ever.

Something I would have done differently to the original soup recipe would be to add more salt. And, I would not have bought my fennel bulb from Kroger. They only had two, and both were small and sort of lacking in gusto. It was so cold out I didn't want to make two trips -- one to Kroger to get affordable ingredients such as butter and canned tomatoes -- and then another to Central Market or Whole Foods get specialty items such as fennel, which ended up not having as good a flavor as it should have. So my advice is to get your fennel from the best source possible so that the tomato and herbs don't completely overwhelm the fennel.

Oh, also I would have substituted the water for chicken stock. I had some in the freezer and why I didn't use it I'll never know. Chicken stock (not bullion) makes everything taste better.

The recipe shows the soup garnished with rosemary, but it seems to make sense to use the fennel fronds as garnish which I've done here. I think next time I won't garnish it with so much fennel either. Jut a light dollop in the center.

The recipe makes enough soup to have some left over. I had some two days later and it was even better. Somehow the herbs and fennel had a chance infuse with time and the flavor was just the best.