Grilled cheese and tomato soup…enough said. Why this combination is so tasty defies explanation… sort of… at least in the western hemisphere. In elementary school, or maybe junior high, I learned that there were four flavors: salty, sour, bitter and sweet. As a chef I learned that balancing these four flavors is what makes food taste good. Consider the hotdog. A hotdog tastes… salty. So what then would make it taste better, perhaps something sweet… or sour… better yet sweet and sour? Enter the ketchup, or relish, or mustard. This basic balancing act is found in everything from salsa to sushi to salad dressing (see earlier post). The problem is that there are two more flavors: spicy and Umami.
You are all, no doubt, familiar with spicy, but what the @#$% is Umami? Wikipedia has the really long answer, but the short answer is cheese. Umami is a Japanese word for which we still haven’t settled on a definition. Savory is often used as a descriptor, as is meaty. It was first “discovered” over a century ago when a Japanese scientist isolated monosodium glutamate as the reason seaweed tasted “so good”. While I may disagree with their assessment of seaweed, and you may fear and hate the dreaded MSG, a century of research has proved that the same glutamate chemicals that make things “umami” are found in things like mushrooms, bacon, cheese… and tomatoes.
So back to tonight’s dinner… while waiting in my eye doctor’s office yesterday I read this month’s issue of Martha Stewart’s ”Living”. Her article on gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches definitely inspired this evening’s meal: a small pot of homemade tomato soup and three tiny grilled cheese sandwiches. I used Pepperidge Farms “very thin” bread, but if you have a bigger crowd use healthier, thicker, multi grain bread: and split the sandwiches between several people. Martha had a ton of great combinations… none of which I used exactly but still check them out here.
My choices: Cotswold and bacon, Gruyere and Prosciutto, and Mushroom Brie with honey mustard and apples. Add that to the tomato soup …Umami overload. And while this is not the healthiest meal I’ve ever eaten… its still less than two ounces of meat and 3 ounces of cheese… Once again let’s hear it for stinky cheese.