Rolling through my e-mail this morning, my usual How-to instructions from Martha Stewart caught my eye: "30 THINGS MARTHA THINKS YOU SHOULD KNOW."
I’m pretty sure I have at least a few years on her, so I decided to check out what little tidbits of knowledge I could possibly have been missing out on all these years. And WOW! Have I been doing things all wrong, or what?
Take a simple grilled cheese sandwich, for example. I’ve been making them since high school, just the way my mother made them. Two slices of Wonder bread, two slices of American cheese, a hunk of butter or margarine in the frying pan, a little elbow grease on the spatula to press it down, and Presto! A perfect grilled cheese sandwich!
But not according to Martha. I mean, I didn’t even get the ingredients right. She says you need ciabatta bread, Emmentaler Swiss cheese (what the heck is that?), a thin sliced medium vine-ripe tomato, coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, basil leaves, and unsalted butter at room temperature.
I didn’t cook it right either. She says you need a grill pan over medium-high heat and ciabatta bread, buttered on the cut side. Then you top the bread with a slice of cheese, tomato slices, more cheese, salt and pepper and basil leaves, and top that with the remaining slice of bread, buttered side down. Then you butter the exterior side of bread, season that with salt and pepper and place the sandwich, butter side down (like you wouldn’t know that without being told) onto the grill pan. Then you weight the sandwich down with a large cast-iron skillet (What??) and cook until golden for about 3 minutes. Next, you remove the cast iron skillet and the sandwich from the grill pan, butter the exterior side of top bread slice, turn the sandwich over, put it back in the pan, weight it down, cook for 3 minutes more, and serve immediately.
You know, in the time it takes her to make one grilled cheese sandwich, I could do it my way, plus fix a can of tomato soup, eat both the soup and sandwich, wash and dry the dishes and put them away.
If you think making a grilled cheese her way is complicated, you wouldn’t believe her instructions for a BLT. The ingredients include garlic, olive oil, rosemary or oregano, and prepared or homemade mayo. The bread she recommends is white sandwich bread, such as "pain de mie (Pullman)." (Always in my pantry – how about you?)
And the "prepared" mayonnaise isn’t just that jar of Hellman’s you pull out of the frig, open it and slather it on the bread, either. Oh no, what do you think the garlic, olive oil, and rosemary or oregano is for? That’s the stuff you’re gonna "prepare" the mayo with.
First, you’ll heat the oven to 375°, then you’ll rub the entire head of garlic with the olive oil, place it on a sheet of aluminum foil, add the herbs, and wrap it tightly. Then bake it until the cloves are soft, 25 to 35 minutes and set aside to cool. Squeeze the cooled roasted garlic out of each clove onto a cutting board, transfer soft garlic to a medium bowl, mash with a fork until smooth, then stir in it into the mayo.
(Hope you weren’t in a hurry to eat that BLT!)
If you’re pretty much set in your ways and happy with how you cook your food, don’t rest on your laurels just yet. There’s several other little household chores Martha is pretty sure you may need some help with, like loading a dishwasher, doing laundry, ironing shirts, making a bed, setting a table, flower arranging, tying a bow, or painting a wall.
But you gotta give her credit – she’s the one with a mansion in Connecticut, a summer home in Maine, a couple TV shows, a lucrative line of domestic goods and millions in the bank. So just in case you decide to try her version of a grilled cheese sandwich, here’s her tomato soup recipe to go with it.
MARTHA STEWART’S CREAMY TOMATO SOUP
6 tablespoons unsalted butter 2 small onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced 1/2 cup dry white wine
3 pounds ripe summer tomatoes 1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more
(4 cups chopped) for seasoning
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground 1 cup fresh basil leaves, loosely
pepper, plus more for seasoning packed
1/2 cup heavy cream
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring, until onions are translucent, about 3 minutes. Add wine, tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Cook just until tomatoes are falling apart, about 5 minutes. Stir in basil, and remove from heat. Let cool slightly. Transfer tomato mixture to a blender, filling the jar no more than halfway; work in batches if necessary. Cover lid with a clean dish towel, and press lid securely in place while blending soup. Return soup to saucepan. Add cream, and adjust consistency with water if necessary. Season with salt and pepper.
P.S. – Let me know how this turns out – I only use Campbells.
Carole Branz Wahler grew up in the Morristown area and is a graduate of Lafferty High School . Her parents Ernest "Stump" and Lena Branz owned and operated the Third Base Restaurant on Route 40 for many years. Today, she resides in Bradenton, Fla.