Thanks to two recipes from “What’s Cooking Italian” (Thunder Bay Press) by Penny Stephens, home chefs can put an Italian spin on the soup-sandwich pairing with “Mozzarella Sandwiches” and “Creamy Tomato Soup.”
8 slices day-old bread, crusts removed
31⁄2 ounces mozzarella cheese, thickly sliced
8 canned anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
16 fresh basil leaves
1⁄2 cup pitted black olives, chopped
4 eggs, beaten
2⁄3 cup milk
Oil for deep-frying
Salt and pepper
Cut each slice of bread into two triangles. Top eight of the bread triangles with the mozzarella slices and chopped anchovies. Place the basil leaves and olives on top and season with salt and pepper to taste. Lay the other eight triangles of bread over the top and press down around the edges to seal.
Mix the eggs and milk and pour into an ovenproof dish. Add the sandwiches and leave to soak for 5 minutes.
Heat the oil in a large pan until a cube of bread browns in 30 seconds — the oil will then be hot enough for deep-frying. Before cooking the sandwiches, squeeze the edges together again.
Carefully place the sandwiches in the oil and deep-fry for 2 minutes or until golden, turning once. Remove the sandwiches with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper towels. Serve immediately while still hot.
Creamy Tomato Soup
3 tablespoons butter
1 pound, 9 ounces ripe tomatoes, preferably plum, roughly chopped
33⁄4 cups hot vegetable stock
2⁄3 cup milk or light cream
1⁄4 cup ground almonds
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons shredded basil leaves
Salt and pepper
Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes, until the skins start to wrinkle. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the stock to the pan, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, under a preheated broiler, lightly toast the ground almonds until they are golden brown. This will only take 1-2 minutes, so watch them closely.
Remove the soup from the heat and place in a food processor. Blend the mixture to form a smooth consistency. Alternatively, mash the soup with a potato masher. Press the soup through a strainer to remove any tomato skin or seeds.
Place the soup in the pan and return to the heat. Stir in the milk or cream, ground almonds and sugar. Warm the soup through, and add the shredded basil just before serving.
Transfer the soup to warm bowls and serve hot.