Grilled Cheese: From Home to High End

10 Apr

The grilled cheese sandwich, like many food items, has transitioned from plain to couture. At one time somewhat floppy and slightly soggy with a knack for permeating the kitchen, it has hit the big time with entire cookbooks devoted to the melted sandwich.

What’s not to like? A hot sandwich beats a cold one any day and is much more forgiving. Leftovers take on a tasty new life, a tomato that’s about to turn is revived and a bland slice of bread becomes flavorfully caramelized.

Now given a grander stature, the grilled cheese has a more fitting designation … The Panini. And the Panini Press has arrived on the top of the list of gadgets that could be considered frivolous were it not for its true usability and value. There’s no end to suitable, delicious combinations – see links to recipes on the bottom of the page. But for a simple pleaser for all ages, try the Mini Panini recipe below for simple goodness. Kids go crazy over these.

PANINI PRESS

If your interest is strictly sandwiches, the well-rated model below will expand your recipe repertoire significantly. The flat vs. ridged plates will more evenly conduct heat and be easier to clean.

Panini Maker

Click for Link to Amazon

But if you’d like to put this device to full use and cook everything from chicken to cakes, go with a ridged-plate model.

Cuisinart Panini Maker

Click for Link to Amazon

Your sandwiches will have marks, but you’ll have a very versatile new cooking appliance.

Grilled Cheese

FROM HOME: The Mini Panini

INGREDIENTS

  • French Baguette, cut in 1/2 inch slices
  • Softened Butter
  • White Cheddar Cheese, sliced
  • Optional: Tomatoes, Spinach, Basil, Bacon, Ham or anything your taste buds find would go well between two slices of bread.

PREPARATION

  1. Preheat the panini maker according to manufacturers instructions.
  2. Slice the baguette into 1/2 inch pieces. TIP - To avoid having your French bread go rapidly stale after purchasing, slice it into whatever size you typically use (I do a sandwich size and then slice for grilled cheese when defrosted) and freeze in a zip lock bag. Defrost on the counter or slowly in the toaster oven and slice.
  3. Cut or slice the cheese.
  4. Spread butter on one side of each bread slice.
  5. Drop half of them butter side down in the panini plate.
  6. Top with cheese and cover with the second half, butter side up.
  7. Drop top, let sizzle, open and eat.

 TO HIGH END

Farmers Wife

If you’ve ever meandered the farmers markets at the San Rafael Civic Center or Marin Country Mart in Larkspur, you’ve likely come upon The Farmers Wife food truck and the emanating wafts of their outstanding melted sandwiches including Farm Egg & ArugulaKimchee & Avocado and Magruder Ranch Smoked Ham, Gruyère & Mustard.  Menu changes daily. They’re on the pricey side but well worth it.

Owners Kendra and Paul Kolling are on a mission to provide the best in locally sourced, seasonal products in keeping with the farming legacy of their extended family. Paul’s grandmother was the inspiration behind the unique, heirloom flavor blends in Nana Mae Organics apple juices which you can also find at the farmers market. With over 25 heirloom varieties, Paul farms in harmony with nature to bring out the best in the land.

Nana Mae

And Kendra, as The Farmers Wife, sources the ingredients of her outstanding food truck sandwiches from local farms which set them a far notch above.

AND IN BETWEEN

The Melt TruckAnd finally, another eating option at the Corte Madera Town Center. Parked outside the center entrance you’ll find The Melt Bus and a few tables for dining.

Melt BusThe menu of all-natural, wholesome items includes everything from the classic grilled cheese to braised short rib and pepper jack to aged swiss, portobello and grilled onion. They also have soups and milkshakes as well as breakfast options.

The Melt Bus is open Friday to Sunday, 11am-3pm.

RECIPE LINKS

Here are a few recipe links worth checking out.

French Onion Soup Grilled Cheese

French Onion Soup Grilled Cheese

Grilled Figs and Brie

Grilled Figs and Brie

Tomato, Avocado and Pesto

Tomato, Avocado and Pesto

Happy Grilled Cheese Day on April 12th!

Farmers Market Recipes: Spring Season

29 Mar

An uplift in mood is clearly evident come spring at the farmers market. And the beauty of cooking and eating along a somewhat seasonal track is the joy that comes from seeing favorites return after a long absence.

Below are a few items you’ll find in abundance now along with links to some favorite recipes. Since the weather is more winter than spring at the moment, it’s a good time for roasting and braising which is not ideal in the warmer months.

If you do live in Marin, check out the Spring Schedule of Local Farmers Markets below.

Click images for recipes        

ARTICHOKES

ArtichokesThis recipe is straightforward and full of flavor. Artichokes are trimmed, seared and then sit covered to cook for 45 minutes. And although a dip isn’t necessary, here’s a great one to accompany a more simple steamed artichoke.

 ASPARAGUS

Asparagus Pic Monkey

Go with the fatter spears to avoid them becoming stringy when roasted. This recipe is a great meld of flavors.

BEETS

BeetsA simple, versatile and tasty recipe. Feta works well too.

CARROTS

Carrots

I usually make this recipe without the orange juice and use fresh or dried rosemary, thyme or a combination.

STRAWBERRIES

Strawberries

Although the freezing-for-winter strategy extends strawberries’ lifespan, there’s nothing like the freshly picked. Click the image above for recipes.

 


 MARIN COUNTY FARMERS MARKET Spring Schedule      

SUNDAY

SAN RAFAEL, 8:00-1:00, Marin County Civic Center Parking Lot

TUESDAY

MILL VALLEY, 3:00-7:00pm, Tam Valley Community Center, 203 Marin Ave   (Starts in May)

WEDNESDAY

CORTE MADERA, 12:00-5:00 pm, Corte Madera Town Center, Highway 101 & Tamalpais

FAIRFAX, 4:00-8:00pm, Bolinas Park, 124 Bolinas Avenue     (Start in May)

THURSDAY

SAN RAFAEL

8:00am-1:00pm, Civic Center, Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium’s Parking Lot

6:00-9:00pm, Downtown San Rafael, 4th Street between Lincoln and B Streets

FRIDAY

MILL VALLEY, 9:30am-2:30pm, CVS Pharmacy Parking Lot, 759 E Blithedale

BOLINAS, 2:00-6:00pm, Star Route Farm, 95 Olema-Bolinas Road

SATURDAY

LARKSPUR, 9:00am-2:00pm, Marin Country Mart, Larkspur Landing Circle

Savory Roasted Sweet Potatoes: A Side Dish or Pillow for Poached Eggs

1 Mar

Sweet Potatoes

When it come to side dishes, I gravitate to the quick prep/undisturbed cooking options because pre-dinner, a multitude of other interferences insist attention. Weeknights don’t tend to be the time for fuss. The default is to gather a variety of potatoes and/or veggies, toss them onto a baking sheet, glug on some olive oil and sprinkle with herbs and a seasoning salt before setting in the oven. Although the results hit the high mark sometimes more than others, you’ll get a tasty and reliable side staple regardless.

But something about this sweet potato recipe has me hooked. I made it three times last week. Like the stand-by, preparation is simple and there is no need to monitor, but it has a winning flavor and perfect bite every time.

Reheated leftovers are just as worthy. Or try with poached eggs! (see recipe below)

Nutritional Information

As an added benefit, this tuber vegetable side dish will up the nutrition quotient of your meal:

Low

  • Calories
  • Sodium
  • Saturated Fat
  • Cholesterol
  • Glycemic Index

High

  • Dietary Fiber
  • Calcium
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Beta-Carotine
  • Potassium
  • Iron
  • Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Magnesium and Vitamin C

Sweet Potato or Yam?

Surprisingly, both of the above are sweet potatoes. Those yams we think we’re eating at Thanksgiving are more commonly harvested in West Africa are very rarely found in our supermarkets. These two have a slight consistency and taste difference but both work well in this recipe.

Conventional or Organic?

Sweet potatoes are on Environmental Working Groups Clean 15 List so are considered less likely to be contaminated by pesticides. Their strong outer layer would seem to provide a sufficient boundary, but this  video-gone-viral of a little girls’ science experiment could give you pause next time you purchase them. She attempts to grow roots in jars using non-organic, conventional organic and local organic sweet potatoes. I think I’ll be adding a plus one to EWG’s Dirty Dozen List.

For more information on the experiment and Bud Nip, click here.

Savory Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Servings: 6-8View or Print Recipe Only

INGREDIENTS

  • 3-4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into uniform sized pieces
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup water

PREPARATION

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place sweet potatoes in a baking dish or on a sheet pan. Lining with foil will minimize clean up.
  3. Melt butter either in a microwave safe measuring cup or in a small saucepan.
  4. Add rosemary, garlic, 
salt and pepper. Toss to evenly coat potatoes and spread 
into a single layer.
  5. Drizzle with olive oil and top with parmesan cheese.
  6. Add water to baking dish.
  7. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until tender when pricked with a fork.

Adapted from It’s a Keeper

Poached Eggs and Bacon/Spinach Over Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Sweet PotatoesINGREDIENTS

  • Roasted Sweet Potatoes (Leftover)
  • Eggs
  • Bacon (optional)
  • Spinach (optional)

PREPARATION

  1. Begin heating a few inches of water in a frying pan.
  2. While waiting, start bacon and/or spinach. See instructions here for cooking bacon in the microwave or oven or on the stovetop. See instructions here for sautéing spinach.
  3. Add about 1/2 teaspoon of white vinegar to the water which helps to keep the eggs intact.
  4. Break the first egg into a small bowl.
  5. Just as the water is starting to lightly simmer but before it comes to a full boil, turn down the flame to keep it minimally bubbling.
  6. Begin swirling the water with a spoon and gently slide the bowl into the water letting the egg slip out. Add the remaining eggs to the bowl one at a time and repeat the process. (If the white seems to be spreading significantly, you can gently push toward the yolk with a spoon or spatula.)
  7. When done placing the eggs to the water, set the timer for 3 minutes and line a plate with a paper towel.
  8. After 3 minutes, check the eggs. Remove when the whites have set, up to 1 minute more.
  9. Gently remove from the water with a slotted spoon onto the paper towel. If not serving immediately, remove the eggs at 3 minutes when they’re slightly underdone (whites aren’t floating and are close to set.) Place in a bowl of cold water, cover and put in the refrigerator. Reheat for a minute in lightly simmering water.
  10. Heat the potatoes in a microwave or oven. Place on a plate, top with bacon and/or or spinach, slip poached eggs on top.
  11. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Amazingly Nutritious, Perfectly Delicious Cottage Cheese Pancakes

14 Feb

This recipe is a must try. I felt it necessary to make the post title a bit promotional given that cottage cheese happens to be the key ingredient. This cheese curd product is not something that has ever found its way into my shopping cart until this impression-breaking recipe came along. Continue reading

Why the Rise in Childhood Obesity? Too Much Food, Too Little Exercise or Something Else?

31 Jan

Seeing the new documentary Fed Up at the Sundance Film Festival last week inflamed an already nagging disbelief that this generation of children face a shorter life expectancy than their parents due to the rise in obesity. At the same time, it provided a sense of hope that the film may follow in the footsteps of producer Laurie David‘s 2006 Sundance hit An Inconvenient Truth which brought the issue of global warming to the forefront and galvanized a call-to-action that established it as not just a political challenge but a moral one. 

Continue reading

Food for Thought and Recipes for the Week

18 Jan

Below is a weekly food roundup, locally and beyond, of ideas for what to cook, where to eat, things to consider and actions to inspire. If you have something to add to a future Friday Food list, please share it in the comments section below. Enjoy the weekend!

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