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For a Mother’s Day lunch menu, I wanted to play on the classic pairing of tomato soup with grilled cheese but with a sophisticated twist. The tomato soup is elevated by roasting the tomatoes first. This way it caramelizes it and brings the flavours out much more than using, say, canned tomatoes. The black beans add more depth and substance. The soup can easily be a meal in and of itself. The sandwich was inspired by Earls (a local chain restaurant for you non-Vancouverites). The creaminess of the brie, sweetness of the caramelized onions, and tartness of the apple make for a well balanced accompaniment to the grilled chicken and crusty French bread. Alternatively, I came up with a vegetarian switch-up of melted brie cheese, fragrant basil, and sweet tomatoes. This isn’t a quick meal to make but can easily be prepared in advance.

Roasted Tomato and Black Bean Soup
Adapted from Jeannette Ordas on PoppyTalk (of Everybody Likes Sandwiches fame)

1.5 lbs of tomatoes, thickly sliced (I used about 5 vine-ripe tomatoes)
5 garlic cloves, crushed and sliced in half
1 jalapeno, sliced in half with pith and seeds removed
1 tbsp. of fresh thyme
small handful of basil
salt and pepper
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 large celery stalk, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp. brown sugar
salt and pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. On a large cookie sheet, lay out tomatoes, garlic, jalapeno, thyme and basil. Drizzle with 2 tbsp. olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Give the tomatoes a flip to coat everything in oil. Bake for 1 hour.
  2. In a large pot, over medium-high heat, saute onions and celery in 1 tbsp. of olive oil until onions start to go translucent and celery begins to soften (about 3 minutes). Add roasted tomatoes and juices into the pot. Saute for another 5 minutes.
  3. Add broth and scrape up all the bits at the bottom of the pot. Bring to a boil and then cover and turn down the heat to simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Using an immersion blender, blend up the soup to your desired consistency. I like to blend it about 75% so it’s smooth with a few good chunks. Add in black beans and brown sugar and stir. Let it simmer for another 15-20 minutes. Finally, add salt and pepper to taste.

Note:
I served this soup as is with the sandwich but you can certainly serve it with a bit of freshly squeezed lime juice, a dollop of sour cream, a handful of tortillas, and/or sliced avocados for a Mexican twist. I’ve also made a non-vegetarian version of this by adding in some shredded chicken or chorizo sausage (after the immersion blender part, of course).

Grilled Chicken and Baked Brie Sandwich
Inspired by Earls Restaurant’s version of the sandwich

8 slices of French bread, cut crosswise
2 grilled chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
Olive oil, enough to coat the breasts
Salt and pepper
1 garlic clove, finely minced
4 tbsp. mayo
Handful baby spinach
1/2 Granny Smith apple, peeled and sliced thinly
Caramelized onion
Slices of brie cheese

  1. Grilled Chicken: Brush with olive oil on both sides and season with salt and pepper. Grill for about 4-5 minutes on each side. Slice on an angle or keep it whole – you’re choice.
  2. While the grill is still hot, toast the French bread slices to get nice grill marks, unless you plan to use a panini press.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare garlic mayo by mixing the garlic and mayo together.
  4. Prepare caramelized onion by following my recipe from a couple of posts ago.
  5. To assemble:
    a) Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
    b) Spread garlic mayo on both sides of the bread.
    c) On one side, layer the spinach and the apple slices on top.
    d) On the other side, layer first with caramelized onion, then chicken, and then brie.
    e) Place the sandwich open-faced into the oven until the cheese has melted.
    f) Serve with soup and enjoy.
  6. OR, to assemble: Prepare the sandwich as instructed but place in a panini press instead until the cheese has melted and the bread has nice grill marks.

Notes:
The chicken can easily be omitted for a vegetarian version of this. In this case, I would slice the apples a bit thicker and load up on the cheese and caramelized onion. Lastly, a great alternative to the onion is fig jam if you have that on hand – but really, who has that just sitting in their fridge? Not me.

Grilled Cheese with Tomato and Basil

8 slices of French bread, cut crosswise
Slices of brie cheese
A few slices of tomatoes
A small handful of fresh basil
Garlic mayo

  1. Spread garlic mayo on the bread slices.
  2. Lay brie cheese, tomatoes, and basil leaves.
  3. Grill in a panini press or barbecue until cheese has melted and the bread is nicely toasted.

Notes:
Since I used basil leaves here instead of spinach (like in the chicken sandwich above), the flavour profile of this sandwich is entirely different. I liked the idea of using a fragrant herb rather than a leafy green because I thought it would add an interesting depth. You can also go traditional by using mozzarella rather than brie, but I had extra brie that needed to be used up from the other sandwich and I love brie. :P

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