Pesto Ham and Cheese Sandwiches with Tomato Soup

Melted cheese and pesto goodness

Grilled cheese is great, but today Melissa concocted something that was a welcome departure from the usual compliment to tomato soup. After scoring a ciabatta loaf in the day-old section of a local market, she sliced it in half length wise and slathered one side with pesto sauce left over from last night’s pizza adventure. She added some uncured ham and raw medium cheddar cheese to one side and garlic and olive oil to the other. Less than 2 minutes under the broiler later we had an awesome, and giant sandwich that we then cut into 8 small sandwiches.

Trevor is normally pretty easy to please but some days he is leery of any type of change – today was one of those days. Luckily he was very happy with the difference and Ididn’t have to blow through a whole package of ham in the process.

But really, as awesome as the sandwiches turned out, they are basically just a vessel for the tomato soup, which I like to add a fair amount of Tabasco sauce to. We recently found a source of tomato puree that we like, which makes the soup come together quickly. But this batch featured some fresh basil and garlic as well, which made it taste extra awesome.

My first serving

Trevor and I were both raised with tomato soup and grilled cheese on cold and blustery days, and to this day still love and remember that warm bowl with a gooey cheesy sandwich. The biggest difference however is we won’t use Campbell’s canned tomato soup or American cheese on Iron Kids white bread (because we have standards) but we still want our kids to experience what we experienced.

Getting Aurora to eat the soup is not a problem, she’s addicted to soup-a-hol, of all types. Getting her to eat her sandwich however is a little trickier. She did end up taking a couple bites, but in the end I gladly relieved her of her sandwich.

Aurora is a lot like my little sister Aimee who always loved tomato soup and pretty much any soup my mother plopped down in front of her.

Cadence was much more difficult to please. This photograph was only made possible because of her love of acting. I think she ended up with a cheese stick and some blackberries.

Cadence on the other hand is more like I was as a child – totally in it for the sandwich and probably won’t like tomato soup until she’s a little bit older and her taste buds have matured beyond only liking bland (or sweet) food.

Genuine happiness

Synthetic happiness

Melissa's Pesto
  1. 1-2 bunches of basil
  2. 3-4 cloves of garlic
  3. 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan
  4. handful of nuts, either walnuts or pine nuts
  5. 1/4 tsp of salt
  6. 1/4 cup of olive oil
  1. In a food processor put all of the leaves from 1- 2 bunches of fresh basil leaves 3-4 cloves of garlic (depending on how much bite you like), about a 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan, a handful of nuts either pine nuts or walnuts work best, a 1/4 a tsp of salt, and 1/4 of a cup of olive oil. You don’t have to grate the Parmesan if you have a wedge just cut a bunch of it off and throw it in. Then you turn it on and let it go if it seems dry add more olive oil, if it has to much bite add more nuts.
She & Him, Cooking

The best part of this recipe is you can play with it to get it right how you like it.

Such as doubling, or tripling the garlic. Is quadrupling out of line?

Coconut Cheddar Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

With coconut butter at room temp, this is very easy

First off, Melissa and I both really love sprouted whole wheat bread. It’s course texture is just about the furthest thing from the white bread more commonly used for these sandwiches, but we find it to be more flavorful and appreciate it’s nutritional value. It also brings excellent mouth feel when toasted, very crunchy but not hard. It’s courser texture also holds up better to being toasted with a griddle. Most white breads seem to collapse and become saturated if you aren’t very careful during cooking.

I also like to use coconut oil instead of butter. I’m not convinced that there’s much health benefit here, but I do find that it results in a more crisp toast, and the sweet hint of coconut melds very well with the earthy bread and creamy cheese.

These presses are quite handy

Finally, Melissa and I aren’t fans of American cheese, but we do have a special place in our hearts and stomachs for quality medium to sharp cheddar. I find the stronger flavor of the cheese helps it keep up with the sprouted whole wheat bread, maintaining an appropriate balance of gooey, creamy, crunchy and toasty.

Preparation is simple. Coconut oil is very shelf stable at room temperature, which means it’s always at the right temperature for maximum spreadability. I find I can use much less coconut oil than I would butter because of the way it spreads – it reminds me of working with shortening. I apply the coconut oil to the outside of the sandwich only, and use 2 slices of cheddar in each.

If the cheese is oozing a little, you are all set

Once on the plate, I let them rest for a moment while I clean up a bit and put things away, giving the cheese a little more time to equalize in temperature ensuring consistent gooeyness. A quick diagonal slice later and it’s ready to eat.

I highly recommend trying coconut oil in place of butter in other applications. Like coconut milk in place of cow milk, there will be some applications where it’s more effective than others – but in the applications where it does work well, it brings a unique yet complimentary flavor to foods that I always find surprising and enjoyable.