You can’t just have soup for dinner. Ok. Maybe if you are alone at home, you could have a big bowl of soup by yourself. I certainly could. I would never give just soup to my family. There has to be stuff to go with it. My son would be really mad if I didn’t get any “fancy cheese”. This used to be La Tur which is our favorite – a French creamy cow and sheeps milk cheese with a rind, but then during the gas crisis it got so crazy to buy it that I branched out. It’s kind of embarrassing actually, admitting to liking Boursin. It’s so seventies. It’s so everywhere. Maybe it has even been bought by Kraft – who knows? I hate to say it – I love the cracked pepper version. So sometimes I still serve La Tur, but I admit to a secret love of Cracked Pepper Boursin and my kids totally love it. I like either cheese with olive oil crostini crackers – I buy the Whole Foods house brand.
If cheese and crackers doesn’t seem filling enough, something we like with Bean and Pasta Soup – or any soup really – is a grilled cheese sandwich. Here in Seattle, I get a bread called Columbia from Essential Baking. It has wheat flour, whole wheat flour, a little rye, water, organic malt and sea salt. I guess that means it is naturally leavened. Its chewy crust! Its flavorful crumb! I love it. For cheese, I use either sharp cheddar – our local Beecher’s is very good – or a young Fontina. The bread should be sliced not too thick and I brush the outside with olive oil before putting it in the sandwich press. French ham, Fra Mani Salami – the Sopressata or the Nostrano are terrific – or my personal favorite, mortadella, are good either in the sandwich or on the side. If all you can get is Boar’s Head or some prepackaged supermarket salumi, don’t bother. The sandwich with cheese alone is delicious enough.
Even though it’s a mostly vegetable soup, I still think that you need something fresh with it. So I make a platter of cut raw vegetables, including the obvious carrots, celery, cucumbers and peppers and also romaine hearts or blanched green beans. If I make something to dip those into my kids won’t stop eating vegetables.
There are two dips to go with the vegetables and I like both. Some people might find the mayonnaise version very low rent – I still love it but I come from a mayonnaise family! That being said, there is only one kind of readily available mayonnaise from a bottle that I like and that is the Trader Joe’s version. It’s not too gelatinous like the Best Foods one that so many people and publications rave about. (Why!?!?) It’s more lemony and satiny. If I’m not making my own – and because of the whole salmonella thing I rarely do this anymore – Trader Joe’s Real Mayonnaise is the way to go.
To make the Mayonnaise Version:
- 1/2 cup Trader Joe’s Real Mayonnaise (blue and yellow label)
- squirt of lemon juice to taste (from a lemon, please – not a bottle)
- (1) grated small clove of garlic – I hope you already have a microplane – I couldn’t live without mine
Mix it all up and adjust lemon and garlic to taste.
To make a Greek Yogurt Version:
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurt (full fat or non fat – you choose)
- sea salt to taste (start with a little and be prepared upon tasting to add more)
- (1) small clove of garlic grated with a microplane
- a splash of fruity, green olive oil if you are using the non-fat Greek yogurt (like the California Estate one in the tall green bottle from Trader Joe’s)
Stir it all up, adjusting seasonings to taste.
Does this seem like a lot to do for a simple dinner of soup and sandwiches? I will write a game plan. It doesn’t have to take over the whole day.