Some things are worth it. Be it time, distance or price, some things are just worth the effort. This entry covers all the bases. Get comfortable. I have a lot to say…as does Ole.
While we were in California this year on a trip back to Martinelli, one of our favorite wineries, we were told about a great cheese shop outside of Santa Rosa. We followed the hand drawn map, found Llano Road and turned down the driveway that transitioned from blacktop to dirt, past the vines and bovines, past a pile of pumpkins and a very crooked tree to a small building by a barn. We found ourselves at Joe Matos Cheese Factory at closing time. Luckily, a loud alarm rings when you open the door alerting all in the surrounding mile that you are there in the drying room. It’s a good thing there are only fields and cows in that mile.
It didn’t take long for Mary Matos to appear from another room, and before we could even say a word, she’d cut off generous hunks of St. Jorges, the only variety the Matos produce, named for the island in the Azores from which they immigrated. The flavor is sort of like a mild Swiss except creamier and more delicious, maybe with some Havarti thrown in. A Google or two let’s us know that melting it is ideal.
If you find yourself in the area, be sure to swing over and pick some up. Note: the Matos take only cash, no plastic here – a fact that caused us to make a return trip the next day. After carefully packaging it for the return trip home, our chunk of St. Jorges met its final destination (2,064 miles from its origin), in the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. Yes, perfect.
All I added to the cheese and bread (aside from a large smear of butter on the whole grain bread) was a few basil leaves. This cheese can stand alone on a cracker, in a mac and cheese, between two slices of bread or just in the palm of your hand. And to make it a meal, what better than a steaming bowl of homemade tomato soup?
Heat a bit of olive oil in a pan.
Toss in a few diced tomatoes and a bit of onion and let it cook down.
It should get nice and juicy.
Towards the end we’ll add the garlic (to make sure it doesn’t burn).
Then add crushed tomatoes, whether they come from a store-bought can or one you filled yourself at the end of the growing season. I also add a bit of water here because I felt like the mixture looked a little thicker than I’d personally like. Just a bit to help it simmer.
After the tomatoes have been simmering for 25 minutes or so, add fresh basil to the mix. I cut up the larger leaves, but I left the smaller ones for the hand blender. I just gave it a few pulses to take care of some of the larger tomato chunks and bring the soup together more. You could pour all the soup (slightly cooled) at this point into a blender and puree it into one even texture, or you could use a hand blender until your desired consistency is reached. Me? I don’t mind a few chunks, so a few pulses was all it took.
Add a cup of cream to the soup and season it with kosher salt and pepper to your liking.
After another 5 or so minutes (to heat up the cream but not boil it), you’re ready to serve. This should be just enough time to finish up the grilled cheese.
At this point I realized that my light bulbs above the stove and the sink were burnt out, making for difficult lighting in the kitchen area. I then went to the table, but you can see that wasn’t much better. The overhead bubble light did nothing for the soup and sandwich.
Plus, I had limited space with one of my brother-in-laws and his four kids joining ours.
I went into the living room, but the darker colors and, again, overhead bubble lights were just not giving me anything. And I was starting to get hungry.
And the temptation and curiosity of how the cheese had fared during the melting process was too much. I wasn’t disappointed. The St. Jorge’s melted beautifully, and the basil complemented the nuttiness of the cheese and the whole thing together contrasted the creamy soup and made for a perfect dunking companion.