Ingredients from my local Italian Market!
I live in “Little Italy”, a vibrant neighborhood in beautiful downtown San Diego. I have the luxury of walking to great Italian Restaurants and even have a great little neighborhood market that sell amazing Italian ingredients. It’s another rainy day in San Diego and suffice it to say I am loving it. I guess it’s my Scottish blood that makes me love the rain.
The market had a loaf of Black Olive Artisan Bread – baked fresh by Bread & Cie , a local San Diego Bakery. Along with this I selected some sliced Asiago Cheese, Fresh Basil, Roma Tomatoes and a delectable Spicy Sopressata (Salami) Salumi. I also picked up an amazing fig compote with Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and a tube of Sun Dried Tomato Paste for use in future Grilled Cheese Creations! I find myself thinking of all the possibilities that make for a great Grilled Cheese Sandwich.
I sliced the bread and the Sopressata thinly then rolled & chopped a few fresh basil leaves. Using my tried and true olive oil in a non-stick pan, I placed two slices of the bread in the pre-heated pan and covered them with two slices of Asiago Cheese; covering the pan with a lid to melt the cheese faster. Once the cheese began to melt, I covered one side of molten cheese with the chopped basil and thinly sliced Sopressata. It dawned on me that a couple of slices of Roma Tomato would be the perfect addition. I flipped the other side on top and it was grilled to perfection!
The Finished Product!
Smoked Gouda w/Niman Ranch Applewood Smoked Bacon, Sliced Avocado & Purple Onion
It’s sunny and not as chilly in San Diego today but there is still a delightful feel of fall in the air. I decided that I needed a bacon fix today so I started things out by slowly frying up 5 plump strips Of NimanRanch Applewood Smoked Bacon. You can buy Niman Ranch Bacon at Trader Joe’s and I can assure you will be thrilled with the quality. Check out the Niman Ranch website http://www.nimanranch.com/index.aspx and see for yourself. It’s all about the ethics surrounding the food we eat.
The Niman Ranch Mission: Niman Ranch and its U.S. farmers and ranchers raise livestock traditionally, humanely and sustainably to deliver the finest tasting meat in the world.
We are proud that all our livestock is:
Niman Ranch Bacon!
- Humanely Raised on Sustainable U.S. Farms and Ranches
- Never Given Antibiotics – Ever
- Never Given Any Added Hormones – Ever
- Fed All Vegetarian Feeds
I was told recently that the Niman Family no longer owns the ranch, but I am still impressed with the quality of the product and the practices that they subscribe to. Chipotle Mexican Restaurants also use Niman Ranch Pork for their food; a huge reason why I will eat at Chipotle!
Be sure to cook the bacon slowly and evenly so it gets nice and brown. Don’t be in a rush. Most things in life are better when done slow & easy. Please make a note of that guys… I like my bacon crispy, especially for sandwiches because I like to break it into tiny pieces and sprinkle it on the gooey cheese goodness when it begins to melt. After its cooked to your liking, remove it from the pan and place the strips on a double folded piece of paper towel to absorb the grease. Use another piece to pat the top. Then set it aside to cool until ready to make your sandwich.
The same as yesterday I used olive oil in my pan in place of buttering the bread. Olive oil is still high in fat but it is a good fat and healthier than butter. I actually prefer the taste of it too but that could be because I have used it in place of butter for so many years. Be sure to buy a good quality extra-virgin type. Trader Joe’s has several great selections at a very good price. I had some TJ’s Smoked Gouda slices in my fridge and I thought this cheese would fare well with the bacon. I leave the brownish rind on because I like it but you can cut it off. Smoked Gouda takes a while to melt so covering the pan will help speed that along. once it starts to swell and bubble , that is when you want to add the bacon pieces to one side. To balance out the saltiness of the bacon I added some thin slices of a firm avocado. Avocado has a buttery texture that compliments the bacon and the gouda. I also added a few pieces of thinly sliced Purple Onion and placed it on top of the avocado. Gently slide the other side of the bread on top of the side with the bacon and avocado, being careful to keep all the ingredients firmly in place. Continue cooking until bread is at desired brownness on both sides. Slide gently on plate and allow to cool for a few minutes before cutting. I added a little sautéed cherry tomato compote to the plate for garnish-yum!
Hinterland Brewery - Pale Ale - Green Bay Wisconsin
I decided to pop open the Hinterland Pale Ale to enjoy with my latest creation. I am afterall, a consenting adult of legal age who deserves to be pampered 🙂 and it was 2:00 PM. I popped open the beer and poured it into one of my favorite glasses. Details on the beer later but with regard to pairing with the grilled cheeses…It was perfect! This mellow Pale Ale complemented the salt and smokiness of the grilled cheese sandwich perfectly!
The great thing about creating grilled cheese sandwiches is that there really is no right and wrong choice. That is a beautiful thing when cooking cause it takes the stress out of the process. Cheese is one of my favorite foods and I can think of few things that don’t go well with the various styles. Stay tuned as I experiment with some of the amazing suggestions I received yesterday on Twitter and via the comments section here. Remember…It’s all about the journey! CHEERS!
Grilled Cheesegasm! Oh My....
Posted in Cooking, Craft Beer, Food, Slow Food
Tagged Craft Beer, Grilled Cheese, Hinterland Brewery, Humanely Raised Meat, Midwest Micro Brews, mw, Niman Ranch, Trader Joes
Grilled Havarti with Caramelized Onion & Oven-Dried Tomato
The weather turned chilly in San Diego this week and in spite of my unemployed status, I am feeling very happy about things! Whenever it is cold and rainy Grilled Cheese Sandwiches come to mind and we’re not talking Kraft processed cheese on wonder bread in this beer geek’s casa. Today I whipped up a yummy little creation that was simple, delicious and affordable.
I started with a few slices of organic purple onion from California and caramelized the rings in a saute pan with about 1 tablespoon of my staple item, Trader Joe’s President’s Reserve Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Add Salt and Pepper to taste. Be careful to cook slowly so they get that yummy look of perfection. While doing this I placed about 8 (cut in half) small cherry tomatoes on a tray sprayed lightly with olive oil and baked them in the oven for about 15 minutes until soft and slightly shriveled. You can also add them cut side down to the pan with the onions (after caramelized) and let cook for a few minutes until they turn into sweet deliciousness. After mine are finished in the oven I add them to the pan with the onions and mix gently to add the caramelized goodness to the tomatoes 🙂
Remove onions and tomatoes from pan and wipe clean. I use olive oil in place of butter because I try to watch the foods I eat and also because I am an olive oil whore err…fan! I pour enough to coat bottom of pan and then place two slices of Trader Joe’sSourdough Wheat Bread, flat ends touching in the pan. Heat is set on Medium. Place one slice of Trader Joe’s Lite Havarti on each side of the bread. I choose lite again because I try to watch what I eat but regular is great also. I have to save calories for my stupendous craft beer selections!!!
Trader Joe's Lite Havarti
Cover the pan for a minute or two until the cheese melts and the bread begins to brown. I like to see it start to bubble but be sure to pay attention to the bread browning also. Once ready, spoon the caramelized onion and tomato mixture onto one side of the bread, on top of the cheese. Add to taste but remember to be sparing enough that it doesn’t make the sandwich mushy. Flip the opposite of the bread over onto the side with the mixture. Flip the entire sandwich once to check that both sides are sufficiently browned. Remove from pan and place on a plate. I used the extra caramelized onion and tomato mixture as a side on my plate because I absolutely adore the combination. Let the sandwich cool for a couple of minutes while you admire the pure beauty of your delicious creation. If appropriate…pair with your favorite Craft Beer Selection. I would likely choose a divine California IPA like Stone Ruination – a staple item in my home. Cut in half, curl up on your favorite chair and enjoy!