It’s here–that feeling in the air, the slant of light that announces my favorite time of year–fall. I love everything about the season–pumpkin pie, red and yellow leaves, crisp air, apple cider, my birthday. Oh, sorry. Did I actually write that? My bad. Forgive the diversion.

Back to the subject. Truth told, it’s the change in food that I love the most, I think. Cool, crisp summer foods give way to warm, cozy, comfortable foods like soups and stews. The slow cooker and the soup pot come out from their summer slumber and we’re off.

You say cozy comfort foods don’t sound romantic? I beg to differ. There is nothing more romantic, in my view, than feeding the person you love his or her favorite comfort food. It can be a gourmet mac and cheese, a chicken and rice casserole, split pea soup with little hot dogs or a long simmered stew. Whatever the dish, making it for someone you care for shows love, concern and affection–the best kind of romance.

In one of my romance novels, the hero, Collins, makes tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for the heroine, Liz, when he’s comforting her after a big argument. Now, knowing Collins as I do (and I know him well–after all, I created him), I’m pretty sure the soup was Campbell’s and the grilled cheese some sort of cheddar on whatever bread he found in Liz’s kitchen, grilled on her panini machine. He was, after all, in a hurry to get back on her good side again.

However, if I had that scene to write over again, maybe I’d have had Collins make the soup a bit more gourmet. And had him cut the sandwiches into fingers of dippable cheesy goodness. It would have taken a bit longer to make but he would have wowed Liz even more if he had.

Why don’t you try it, instead?

Tomato Bisque with Smoked Gouda Cheesy Dippers

Serves 2

For the soup:

2 tblsp. olive oil

1/2 medium onion

1 lb. fresh tomatoes

salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

1 tblsp. butter

1 tblsp. flour

1/2 cup half and half

1/2 tblsp. minced fresh basil

For the cheesy dippers:

4 slices of your favorite bread

4 ounces smoked Gouda cheese

1. Skin the tomatoes by first, slicing an X on the top. Place the tomatoes in a colander and pour boiling water over them slowly. Skins should then peel off easily.

2. Chop tomatoes and onion.

3. Heat olive oil and, when hot, add tomatoes and onion. Stir in salt and pepper. Bring to boil then turn heat to medium low, cover and cook for 20-25 minutes.

4. Melt butter in pan. Add flour and cook over medium heat to create a roux.

5. When tomato mixture is cooked place in blender and blend until smooth. Return to pot and add roux.

6. When the roux is blended in, add half and half and blend well.

7. Stir in chopped basil and keep soup warm while making grilled cheese sandwiches.

8. Make sandwiches in panini machine, on a grill or in a pan. When the sandwiches are grilled, cut into sticks to dip into the soup.

9. Serve and savor.

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