Open-Faced Grilled Cheese with Mashed Avocado & Harissa + A Grilled Cheese Giveaway

Posted by on Monday Dec 23rd, 2013 | Print

This giveaway is now closed. Thanks for entering! -C

For my last post in the epic Middle Eastern Flavor Journey of 2013, I’m coming back to where I started: grilled cheese. My first entry in the series was this Muhammara Grilled Cheese, in which I simultaneously introduced myself to za’atar and pomegranate molasses, made a dip called muhammara, and brought a Middle Eastern twist into my favorite food in the world: grilled cheese.

To bookend that post, today we’ve got homemade harissa, a condiment I can’t believe I haven’t talked about yet, and a technique for making open-faced grilled cheeses for people who live in kitchens too small to fit toaster ovens. Best of all, together with Sargento, I’ve put together the ultimate toolkit for making grilled cheese at home, and you’ll have a chance to enter to win the perfect nonstick frying pan, a grilled cheese press, ingredients for building your Middle Eastern pantry, and coupons for free cheese to melt between two slices of bread–or on top of one slice, which is what we’re up to today.

There are times when I just want an open-faced grilled cheese. It’s like a French bread pizza/toast/tartine craving, as opposed to the need for a sandwich. Right? That makes sense. But when you don’t have a toaster oven, you don’t have the ability to not sandwich your bread together, because otherwise when you go to flip the open-faced sandwich, the cheese will smush all over the pan. That’s why, taking inspiration from this open-faced egg sandwich recipe, I cover the frying pan, turning it into a little stovetop oven, and let the heat build inside until the cheese melts.

To complete this meal, I just mashed avocado with lemon and salt and spread it on top, then dabbled the top with homemade harissa, a garlicky spice paste used throughout the Middle East both as an ingredient and a condiment. I’ve had some really great harissa at falafel joints around town, but I had never confronted the hot peppers needed to make it myself. It’s kind of an experience to make, if you have a few extra hours to kill, and it’s absolutely awesome to eat–fiery, smokey, garlicky, and fragrant with cumin and caraway.

I hope you try the recipe, and here are the details for the giveaway, which includes: the perfect nonstick frying pan, a grilled cheese press, ingredients for building your Middle Eastern pantry, and coupons for free cheese to melt between two slices of bread.

You’ve got three chances to enter the Sargento Ultimate Grilled Cheese Set Giveaway, a $100 value:

  • {one} Leave a comment below and tell what cuisine you’d most like to see explored on Big Girls, Small Kitchen in 2014.
  • {two} Be a subscriber to the Big Girls, Small Kitchen newsletter and leave a second comment letting me know you’ve subscribed.
  • {three} Tell your facebook friends and/or twitter fans about the contest – post the link and tag @Big Girls Small Kitchen (facebook) or @BGSK (twitter). Leave a third comment letting me know you’ve done so.

The contest will run for 10 days, and I’ll announce the winner in my January 3rd newsletter. Good luck!

This sponsored post is part of an ongoing collaboration with Sargento, called Flavor Journey. Throughout this year, with the support of Sargento, I explored Middle Eastern cuisine–at home, in Brooklyn, at cooking classes, and wherever the flavors may take me. You can see the whole series here. Sponsored posts let me do some of my best work on this blog, and I only ever work with brands whose values and products mesh with the content I love to produce for you. Here’s my affiliate disclosure.

**Recipe**

Open-Faced Grilled Cheese with Mashed Avocado & Harissa
Serves 1

Ingredients
1/2 teaspoon butter, softened (optional)
2 slices bread
3 slices Sargento Swiss
1/2 avocado
juice of 1/2 a lemon
Salt
Harissa (recipe follows)

Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, until pretty hot. While the pan is heating, spread the butter on the bread, if using. Pile on the cheese. Turn the heat to low, then add the toasts, cheese side up. Cover with any pot lid that more or less fits. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the bottom of the toast is melted.

Mash the avocado with a little bit of lemon juice and salt. When the cheese is melted, spread the avocado on top of each toast. Dollop with harissa and serve a little more on the side.

Harissa
Makes about a 1/2 cup
Adapted from Claudia Roden

I don’t know a whole lot about chiles, so I just used the 4-ounce box that came with my Good Eggs order. The harissa turned out pretty damn spicy. So you may want to seek out something more mild, if that’s what you prefer to eat. Also, seeding and stemming hot peppers is serious work, so please do be careful.

Ingredients
4 ounces dried chiles of whatever type you like or happen to buy
5 cloves garlic, peeled
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon caraway seeds, toasted then freshly ground in a clean coffee grinder or mortar and pestle
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds, toasted then freshly ground in a clean coffee grinder or mortar and pestle
2 tablespoons best-quality olive oil, plus extra for storing the harissa

Remove the seeds and stems of the chiles. You might want to wear gloves, since the spiciness will stick to your hands for hours. Dispose of the seeds in the garbage. Place the chiles in a large bowl and pour boiling water on top of them to cover. I found that the water touching the chiles made my eyes sting, so you may want to cover the bowl right away and then maybe leave the room. Leave the chiles for 30 minutes, until softened.

Place the seeded and stemmed chiles into the bowl of a food processor with the garlic and pulse a couple of times. Add the salt, caraway and coriander. Process until smooth, pouring in the olive oil  as you go. You can add a little water, too, to get to the right consistency–a thick paste. To store, pour a layer of olive oil on top and refrigerate.

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  • Warm Vanilla Sugar

    I love this. It looks so tasty!

  • http://twitter.com/Kellydinpa kelly

    I would like to see Indian cuisine explored.
    kellywcu8888ATgmailDOTcom

  • http://twitter.com/Kellydinpa kelly

    I subscribe to your newsletter

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  • Tierney

    I’d love to see you explore Indian cooking a bit more–I love it and it is one of the hardest things to get right at home.

  • Tierney

    I subscribe to your emails!

  • Tierney
  • Casey

    I adore harissa so much and spicy food is my favorite

  • cassidy

    I’d like to see more Asian fusion!

  • cassidy

    and i subscribe – emicablue@aolDOTcom

  • Mary Clay Kline

    what about Greek?? yum!

  • RS

    I would love to see more Indian inspired cooking :)

  • RS

    I subscribed to your newsletter! Have already been a longtime subscriber via RSS feed :)

  • RS

    Just tweeted the giveaway too!

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    I subscribed to your newsletter! gcatherinev@gmail.com

  • gcatherinev

    In 2014, i’d like to see more simple recipes that require minimal amount of tools and minimal amount of time. i’m moving in with 2 of my friends next year and unfortunately, we don’t have that much time to do much cooking, and we’re poor medical students. Haha, any recipes would totally help!

  • Holly B

    This looks SO good!

    Indian food is one that I’ve always wanted to cook, but it seems so daunting!

  • pixxie13a

    Polish/Ukrainian foods are my comfort zone.
    But I also love Thai, Indian and Pakistani curries.

  • pixxie13a

    Yay!
    I signed up for the newsletter. I can’t wait to see all of the 2014 recipes!

  • Kevin @ Closet Cooking

    Love the melted cheese, avocado and harissa combo!

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      Thank you Kevin!

  • Sara

    Southeast Asian cuisine in 2014! It’s my favorite, and I’d love to learn to make it at home!

  • Alycia Noë

    I would like Mexican cuisine to be explored

  • GF

    I’d also love to see more easy, simple asian recipes in this new year!

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  • Kristin

    I would like to see Asian food. Also, just got your cookbook for Xmas!

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      great suggestion! hope you love the cookbook!

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    I would love to see Japanese cuisine that is simpler/more home cooking!

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    I can’t decide between Asian and Mexican!

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  • Stephanie K

    I think it would interesting to explore different regional cooking around the United States. Like what defines a certain area’s cooking style; what’s traditional and what’s new.

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  • Ten Coupons

    I’d love to see more Indian food – my 13yo daughter loves Indian food. My efforts at that cuisine have so far been extremely unimpressive (takeout anyone? – yeah, it was that bad). 10750coupons at gmail dot com

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  • Kiki

    Looks fantastic! My father is Middle Eastern so I’m naturally partial to the cuisine. However, my mother was never able to teach me much about preparing it as she’s North American. I’m so glad I happened upon this site and can’t wait to check out the rest of the 2013 series.

    For 2014, I’d be interested in delving into East Indian cuisine. I’d much rather make my own sauces and curries rather than buying the overpriced, over processed versions I’m using now.

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    Subscribed!

  • debbie_suburbsanity

    I’m trying to learn to cook Indian food. I’d love to see that.

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  • Alison M.

    I’d love to see Greek food explored!

  • cupcakemuffin

    YUM. That sandwich looks awesome! I’d love to see Vietnamese food explored. :)

  • RH

    YUM! Actually made some sandwiches similar to these not so long ago. I normally don’t go for open faced sandwiches, but in this case, it was much easier for us to add everything and get it all melted down. Plus, we were just dipping them in tomato soup anyhow :)

    Thanks for sharing!
    http://thehaircarepro.com/avocado-and-avocado-oil-for-hair/

    BTW, for 2014, I’d love to see you guys get in depth with more out-of-your-own-garden recipes, as well as ways to cook/store/can items you grow at home.

  • http://curiouscharisma.blogspot.com/ Amanda D

    greek or italian for 2014. i’m in the mediterranean mood!

  • Michelle Resnick

    I’d like to see Asian cuisine!

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    Thai food

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    Greek food! I love greek!

  • Julie Durand

    I would love to see a series of exploring regional cooking in the usa.

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      I absolutely love this idea – thanks for the suggestion!

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    I would like to see more one pot recipes because I hate doing dishes.

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  • Brandi Young

    mm this looks delicious! I would like
    BGSK to explore more Mediterranean cuisine. We have this desire to produce
    large, indulgent spreads for dinner and parties, but I love the idea of small
    bites and simple plates of healthy items. I would love to see your take on
    developing the cuisine to make it fun and unique!

  • Brandi Young

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  • Michelle

    This looks fantastic! I’d love to see some asian-inspired dishes in 2014

  • Brandi Young

    I shared the giveaway on Facebook!

  • Caroline

    I tweeted it.

  • http://www.laviejaime.com/ Jaime @ laviejaime

    id like a topic of 5 ingredient meals or under ..something like that!

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    i already subscribe laviejaime (at) gmail (dot) com

  • Aubrey Nelson

    Well this e-mail subscriber would like to see some recipes inspired by Caribbean and/or Central and South American cuisine. That’s what I’ve decided to learn about this year so it would be nice to have a reliable source for tasty recipes :)

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      that’s a great idea!

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    Healthy option would be great!

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    I would love to see African cuisines explored.

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    Please explore Thai cuisine. Mmmmmmm…

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    I would love to see you explore Indian home cooking!

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    More one pot easy meals

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    I would like to see Greek cuisine recipes.

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    Mmm. I’d like to see Indian cooking too.

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    I love different cuisines…what I’d really love is to see some videos of you preparing the dishes!

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  • Lee

    Indian food – vegetarian would be a great one to explore!

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  • Hannah

    I’d love to see more Asian food!

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    I would like to see more easy Mexican and Indian recipes
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    I posted this on Facebook
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  • Meg Beasley

    I’d love to see asian or indian cuisine, simplified. As a fellow smaller-kitchener, sometimes the idea of busting out 25 ingredients seems less than ideal. Thanks for the giveaway!

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  • stephanieann

    I’d love to see chicken parm!!

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    I’d love to see low glucose foods explored because I was recently diagnosed with insulin resistance.

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    I’d like to see Indian cuisine explored

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  • http://www.hudsononthepotomac.com/ Ashley

    Greek/ Mediterranean is my favorite! I would love to see it explored here!

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  • Jared

    More about CHeese

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    I would love to see more Asian cuisine featured on the blog. Thanks for the giveaway!

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  • Lexie

    I subscribe to your emails and liked your FB. I would like to see healthy vegetarian food.

  • Heather Gaudette

    I’d like to see more freezer meals!

  • Joe

    Thanks! I’ve been looking for a good harissa recipe. viletone1@gmail.com

  • Joe

    I’m also a new subscriber. viletone1@gmail.com

  • Julie

    i’d love to see more mexican food in 2014!

  • Julie

    also this recipe looks amazing, and i’ve subscribed to your newsletter as well!

    juliewhyte4 at gmail.com

  • Julie

    and just tweeted!

  • fellow foodie

    Regional American cuisine would be very interesting and challenging!

  • grilled cheese

    looks good. your other recipes have 2 tsp butter in the pan per slice of bread. why none here? otherwise, this is just a warm cheese sandwich. gotta have the butter in the pan to taste right!

  • mysweetiepiepie

    I’d be most interested in authentic Italian cuisine.