Soup and a sandwich. If you’re like me, the phrase probably conjures up either workday lunches at Au Bon Pain in the ‘90s or late night diner sessions with high school friends. But these days, it’s also conjuring up my new favorite summer dinner formula. You might wonder if this is just the natural progression of an empty nest dinner maker, but in the dog days of summer when pressing the puree button on a blender and flipping a grilled cheese is as much cooking as I can handle, it feels just right.
Choose a trusty chilled soup:
Chilled Avocado Cucumber (recipe below) or
Then choose a sandwich:
There are a few rules:
1) In the spirit of diner tradition, and if you’re not super hungry, you should feel free to make it a half sandwich per person.
2) The sandwich you select MUST be easy — for instance, no fish sandwich, which is amazing, but involves fish market shopping and dredging stations and cabbage shredding and sustained heat on a stovetop, i.e. actual cooking. Not the point here! Simple, simple, simple. I’m even hesitant to suggest my favorite smashed pea toasts which would be so unbelievably good with the gazpacho, but it means using the blender twice, and that is one time too many at the end of a long hot day.
3) If you’re making the gazpacho, don’t be too Draconian about avoiding a redundant tomato situation. There are very few sandwiches that aren’t upgraded by a beefy heirloom slice, and this time of year, we should all be eating as many tomatoes as possible.
Chilled Avocado and Cucumber Soup
Serves 4 (small bowls) or 2 (large bowls)
2 large cucumbers, peeled and seeded; 1 chopped roughly and 1 finely diced
1 1/2 avocados
1 cup plain whole fat yogurt
juice of 1 large lime
1 small jalapeno chili, minced (seeds and pith removed to achieve desired heat level)
5 scallions (white and light green parts only), roughly chopped
1/3 cup cilantro, roughly chopped (plus more for garnish)
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth (or water)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a blender, combine the 1 roughly chopped cucumber, avocados, yogurt, lime juice, jalapeno, scallions, cilantro, salt and pepper, and broth. Puree until smooth, adding a few tablespoons of water if necessary until it reaches a soupy, but not gloppy consistency. Chill for as long as you can, but it’s fine at room temperature, too! (You might have to thin it out again with water after it chills.) Serve with remaining finely chopped cucumber, cilantro, and more salt and pepper to taste.
Swiss Melt with Tomatoes
Makes 2 sandwiches (or 4 halves)
If you happen to have sauerkraut and Russian dressing on hand, it’s easy to turn this into a meatless Reuben.
4 slices Rye bread
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temp
4 slices Swiss cheese or about 4 ounces Gruyère, grated or very thinly sliced
tomato, the best you can find, sliced (4 slices)
thinly sliced red onion, to taste (or a few dollops of sauerkraut and Russian dressing)
Heat a cast iron or nonstick skillet over medium heat. Butter one side of each slice of Rye bread. Place two of the bread slices buttered-side down on the skillet, then place cheese on top of each. (I make one sandwich at a time in the same skillet, but you can do this in two skillets or one large skillet if you’d like to make it go faster.) After about 2 minutes, when the cheese has melted a little, place tomatoes on one half and sliced onions (or a dollop of sauerkraut and Russian dressing, see photo) on the other. Keep the perimeter of the cheese exposed a bit. Using a spatula, gently flip one piece on top of the other, “sealing” the melty-cheese edges. Flip once more to make sure color is even on both sides. Remove and let rest a minute before slicing in half. Repeat with second sandwich.
What soup-and-sandwich combos would you recommend?