Fancy Grilled Cheese

Fancy Grilled Cheese, Mexican-Style

I used to have a general menu plan for the week because I thought it would be easier to impose some sort of boundaries on meals (“Oh, it’s meatloaf night!” so that’s what I make . . . well, not exactly meatloaf around here, but you know what I mean) and make sure I am not making, say, pasta, three nights in a row (which is completely within the realm of possibility).

Sunday: Wild Card (Scott usually cooks Sunday nights)

Monday: Tofu or some other kind of soy

Tuesday: Soup

Wednesday: Salad

Thursday: Eggs

Friday: Pizza or sandwiches

Saturday: Pasta

This, like many of my other Ordnung fueled plans, fell by the wayside except for Fridays. I still typically make pizza or sandwiches (my definition of sandwich is quite broad . . . it includes fajitas, quesadillas and burritos, for example). This particular Friday, I was paging through Everyday Greens, San Francisco chef Annie Somerville’s follow-up to the more complicated Fields of Greens. I have many favorite recipes from Somerville. I don’t let a summer pass without making Spicy Corn and Chick-pea Soup with Chiles, for example. The first time my dear friend Susan invited us over for dinner maybe 15 years ago, she and her husband Tom made the time consuming but delicious Port Wine and Mushroom Lasagna. The fact that I remember it speaks volumes for the recipe and its execution. The recipes are almost always complex, but well worth the effort. I digress with my food nostalgia, however.

The sandwich recipe I landed on this particular Friday was for grilled cheese . . . but not just any grilled cheese . . . a grilled-poblano-and-onion-with-cheddar-and-cilantro-pesto grilled cheese.

Truth be told, I made one plain old sharp white cheddar grilled cheese because I didn’t think Alia would be willing to stray from her beloved standard. Luca almost choked on a poblano that was hotter than I expected so he also ate part of the plain one. Scott and I happily devoured an entire sandwich each.

If you don’t make this particular one, consider making up your own custom fancy grilled cheese. Have a few stray mushrooms kicking around the crisper? Make a carmelized-onion-sauteed-mushroom-cheddar grilled cheese. It’s summertime which means there is copious amounts of zucchini. How about fried shredded zucchini, basil and caramelized onions (again!)? Clean out your vegetable drawer. Substitute vegetables for half the cheese . . . hear applause from your family and nutritionist!

Grilled Mexican Sandwich with Poblano Chilies and Cheddar

adapted from Annie Somerville’s Everyday Greens

makes 4 sandwiches

1/2 large red onion peeled and sliced into 1/2 ” thick rings

1 poblano chile

Garlic oil (Steep two minced cloves of garlic in 1/2 cup olive oil for 30 minutes. Strain out the garlic and reserve for the cilantro pesto. Store remaining oil in a glass jar in the fridge.)

Salt and pepper

8 slices of whole wheat bread (I bought a homemade loaf at our local co-op)

6-8 ounces sharp white cheddar, thinly sliced or grated

Cilantro pesto (Throw about 1/2 the chopped garlic from the garlic oil, a handful of cilantro leaves (about 1/2 cup), a couple glugs of extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lime juice in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Taste and season with salt)

Unsalted butter, softened (for grilling the sandwiches)

Heat a gas grill to medium. Brush the onion slices and poblano with garlic oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. If you have a  grill skillet, place the whole poblano and onion slices in the skillet and grill onions until tender (about 3-4 minutes on each side) and poblano until the skin is charred and blistered. Alternately, stick a skewer or two through the onion rings to keep them together and place on the grill. Carefully turn after 3-4 minutes. When the poblano is done, place it in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap or in a paper bag. When cool, peel, cut in half and seed. Put the onions and chile in a bowl and give one more sprinkle of salt and a grind of pepper.

Place 4 slices of bread on a work surface. Layer cheese, poblano and onion on top and drizzle with cilantro pesto. Leave the fancy stuff off 1-2 sandwiches as needed. Place the other 4 slices of bread on top of the sandwiches and spread with butter. Place the sandwiches, buttered side down, in a skillet or on a griddle heated to medium. Then, spread the top side with butter. Place a lid on the frying pan to help the cheese to melt. Cook until golden, 4-5 minutes, then turn and cook the other side. Serve immediately with a romaine, radish and avocado salad with a lime vinaigrette on the side.

Ratings:

Me:     A- (It is STILL grilled cheese, thus the -.)

Scott: B+

Luca: A (“even though it was too spicy for me”)

Alia:   lots of B+s (this is a rating of a plain grilled cheese)

Can I Make It Up to You With a Simple, Tasty Chickpea Salad Recipe?

Where have I been?

I’m not sure.

First, I went to a brutal yoga workshop . . . I know ‘brutal’ and ‘yoga’ aren’t supposed to go together, but it was. Good, but brutal with a long recovery.

Then, the end of school. If you have ever taught school at any level, you know what this means. Or if you have ever attended school, you know what this means.

Then, the gutter and window cleaning project? Yes. Really. And, kids released from the confines of school and daycare  . . . need I say more?

All the more reason to keep plugging away at writing about cooking for my family. The blog keeps me honest and inspires me to explore. It’s like you all are looking over my shoulder while I hurry around our kitchen to get a healthy, tasty, vegetarian meal on the table most nights.

This particular night was a yoga night, which usually means a Jimmy John’s #6 or the Yoga Special. One of my favorite chickpea salads has been hanging around in my head lately. I decided to throw it together before I left for my practice. It takes all of 10 minutes if you have the beans cooked or canned beans on hand (I do think it is worth it to make your own chickpeas . . . they don’t have that weird, funky, canned chickpea smell and they have some structure to them). The taste is not a cheap, 10 minute taste, I promise.

Right after I threw this salad together, Alia walked in the kitchen and asked for a bite. I hesitated because I thought she would spit it out. Instead I balanced a chickpea laced with flecks of parsley and mint on a fork and fed it to her. She chewed thoughtfully with her usually silky smooth brow furrowed and proclaimed, “I wike it. It’s sour. Maybe you can make this for me for lunch sometime.” Then she admonished me for not offering her more.

Knock me over with a feather . . . or something.

Chickpea Salad (without or with Roasted Red Peppers)

adapted from Deborah Madison’s brilliant Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

serves 4 as a side or a part of a platter including hard boiled eggs, thin slices of Manchego, tomato wedges and toasted, crusty bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with a respectable extra virgin olive oil

3 cups of cooked chickpeas, rinsed if canned (about 2 15-ounce cans)
1/4 cup of parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons of chopped mint
3 tablespoons of capers, rinsed
1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/4 teaspoon of salt
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Toss the the chickpeas with herbs and the capers in a medium size bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the sherry vinegar, salt, garlic and olive oil. Pour over the chickpea mixture and combine. Serve immediately, or refrigerate it for a day to allow the flavors to magically meld.

Note: The original recipe also has two large, roasted red peppers cut into strips added. I have made it with the peppers on occasion. You see, I am not a big bell pepper fan . . . especially green ones. *Shudder* I can tolerate the other colors, but, given a choice, I leave them out. So, if you are partial, by all means throw those in as well.

Ratings:

Me:  A+ of course. You don’t have chickpea salads knocking around in your head unless they are really, really good.

Scott: N/A (He did not eat it this particular time, but has liked it very much in the past.)

Luca: N/A (Chickpeas make him gag.)

Alia: Another A+ of course. She asked me to make it for her for lunch (see above) – a time reserved for macaroni and cheese and grilled cheese. That is saying something!