Saturday, August 23, 2008

Grilled Cheese and Pea Mozarella Soup - The Cure for what Ails You

There are few things I love more than this pea soup. It's easy, it's healthy, and it's just the sort of thing I want to eat after a long day, sitting with a bowl on the couch with remote in hand. In fact, it would be the PERFECT soup, if it weren't for the unique (to be polite) scent of peas which prevents me from taking leftovers to work. I don't want to be known as the girl who eats the soup that smells like feet. I'm sorry peas, but it's true.

If you've tried pea soup before and are less than thrilled at trying it again, be brave and try again. I didn't even know I liked peas before I made this for the first time, as the only other pea soups I'd had were made heavy and thick and overly salty by either bacon or ham, raping the little veggies of their natural sweetness. It should also be noted that leftovers of this soup can be made even better when you add leftover rice (particularly if you've cooked it with parsley and/or lemon zest.) In fact, that's the other thing about peas - they get along well with everybody, which is why you see them on so many English menus as an accompaniment with everything from fried haddock to lamb, possibly as some sort of karmic retribution for their smell.

Speaking of English, this is Nigella Lawson's recipe, with just the slightest adjustments on my part. Oh and if you're Kris, you don't understand the point of having soup without a sandwich, and the one below is made for dipping in the kelly green, mozzerella flecked swamp.

Pea Soup

4 shallots, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 green onions (can sub fresh basil, parsley, mint or whatever herb you have on hand)
3 cups low sodium chicken stock
2 (10 oz) packages frozen peas
1 large ball fresh mozzarella, broken into small pieces

Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add olive oil, allowing to warm though, then the shallots. Season with salt and pepper and saute for 5-6 minutes until softened. Add green onions and chicken stock, cover and bring to boil. When boiling, add the peas and lower the heat, allowing to cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and allow to cool for twenty minutes before blending. Discard the green onions and transfer the peas and shallots using a slotted spoon to a blender. Add half of the chicken stock, and carefully blend (CAREFUL WHEN BLENDING HOT LIQUID - PULL OUT THE PLASTIC CENTER FROM THE TOP TO ALLOW STEAM TO ESCAPE AND COVER LOOSELY WITH A KITCHEN TOWEL OR ELSE YOU'LL WIND UP WITH PEAS SOUP ON YOUR CEILING. TRUST ME - I'VE DONE IT.) Add as much of the leftover stock as you'd like to reach the constistancy you're happy with, then add in half of the mozzarella pieces blending in to incorporate. When happy, put back in the large pot and cook over low heat, until warmed through. Serve with extra mozzarella pieces sprinkled on top.

Mozzarella Grilled Cheese (This sandwich is baked, actually, making it less fussy than other grilled cheeses.)

French Baguette
1 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
olive oil
salt and pepper
Basil pesto (either purchased or home made)

Preheat oven to 350. Slice your baguette into the size sandwiches you desire, then halve them. Place the halves on an aluminum lined baking sheet sprayed with Pam. Layer your mozzarella slices on the bottom halves, then drizzle the slices as well as the underside of the tops with a light amount of olive oil (use a light hand - you don't want to make the bread heavy or soggy.) Sprinkle all with sea salt and pepper and place in the oven, baking for about 15 minutes or until cheese has begun to melt off the sides and bread is toasted.

Spread the underside of the tops with pesto, assemble the sandwiches, and serve with extra peso on the side.

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