grilled cheese Archives

Muhammara, Za’atar, and Grilled Cheese


This post begins and ends with muhammara. Muhammara is a Middle Eastern dip that’s rich, sweet, spicy, and tangy. I’m always looking for unusual dips, preferably one whose ingredients come from the pantry, and muhammara fits the bill.

Looking to other cultures is one of my tried-and-true ways of branching out in the kitchen. For dips, one of the most fertile culinary traditions has got to come from the Middle East.

Like: picture a mezze table, loaded with hummus, baba ganoush, oils, cheeses, herbs and try not to salivate.

Most of the ingredients in muhammara are everyday items: nuts, chile flakes, tomato paste, olive oil. But one – pomegranate molasses – is a little harder to find. I’ve seen it at some Whole Foods, but I traversed Atlantic Avenue and made a stop at Sahadi’s, a quintessential Brooklyn shopping experience. The pomegranate molasses lends the dip its signature sweetness as well as its tang. I can imagine using the rest of my bottle of pomegranate molasses in dressings and marinades.

Grilled Mozzarella Sandwich with Anchovy-Olive Tapenade


Sometimes food inspiration just strikes, and sometimes you have to go searching for it. If you’re going to go searching, there’s no better place to go than San Francisco.

Specifically, Tartine.

Grilled cheese sandwiches are my kryptonite, but goodness I’ve been boring about them lately. Every day, the same. Two slices of whole-grain Bread Alone bread. Some Cabot sharp cheddar. On one forgetful day, I was out of butter and fried my grilled cheese in olive oil. That was the most excitement my sandwiches have seen this summer.

At Tartine, the baked goods beckon, but I needed lunch. I ordered a toasted sandwich, and Alex’s step-sister, Lissa Ivy, ordered one too. I liked hers better, but I’ll get to that.

Grilled Swiss and Roasted Fennel Sandwich


The grilled cheese sandwich is not some idle obsession or Pinterest fantasy. It plays a valuable role in my life.

The grilled cheese sandwich always delivers. There are foods, like soup or yogurt, that automatically lead to a craving for more: dessert, steak, whatever. Technically, the yogurt and the soup provide plenty of calories to satiate a sedentary blogger, but in reality, they’re somehow not enough.

My mom once gave me a piece of advice: only eat what you like. (I’ve written more about staying healthy as a food lover in this post.) That applies both to unhealthful food and healthful food: I avoid yogurt and donuts with the same passion. When I eat food I really like, I feel great, whether it’s ice cream or quinoa.

Pepperoni Panini


It’s funny how in the last month, Pinterest has captured the attention of reporters, who have analyzed and unpacked it from all different angles. Funny in part because the people I know went through the angst and the confusion about the visual social media network (or whatever you want to call it) many moons ago, back when we joined in August.

It’s not that I’m a super techie early adopter types. It’s just that Pinterest and I had a bunch of mutual friends. Sarah, one of my best friends from high school, blogs over at the beautiful Chevrons and Stripes. She stays up to date on what the designer blog world is doing, and it is design bloggers who were the site’s designated “super pinners,” the ones who were early adopters and who set the aesthetic for the site. Pinterest, for those who don’t know, is a bookmarking app that lets you “pin” any visual element from any page anywhere on the web to one of your own customized bulletin boards, which you then share with followers. It seems to me that app could have developed in any number of different ways, if you just thought in terms of the technology. But right at the beginning, the site invited a bunch of design types to pin away, and their love for white interiors, exposed wood, and glittery shoes set the clean, pretty tone.

I plugged into the late adopters’ critiques and questioning a couple weeks ago through Slate’s Double X Gabfest (which I listen to thanks to my mom’s recommendation; but really, it’s excellent cooking entertainment if you’re into podcasts). The Slate podcasters wondered if there was something troublingly “normative” about Pinterest, as though all of us pinners had swallowed the contents of Lucky and Glamour and Martha Stewart Weddings and were regurgitating them via our pins.

I laughed to myself as I washed the dishes (the perfect time for listening). Because the Slate Double Xers clearly had not involved themselves on the food boards on Pinterest, which have become a place for non-normative inspiration, and for us to share our favorite foods from around the web.

All of this is just a long-winded way of getting back to grilled cheese, my favorite culinary topic. In case you’ve gotten bored of all my grilled cheese yapping, I’ve renamed today’s recipe a panini, just to mix things up.

A couple of months ago I started a grilled cheese “pinboard.” On it, I began collecting inspired combinations of bread and cheese from around the web. I discovered blogs devoted to panini and grilled cheese making and stretched the definition to include open-faced sandwiches, quesadillas, and even fondue. Kevin of Closet Cooking became kind of an idol for his inspired, totally decadent takes on grilled cheese. The more I pinned, the more I was amazed and amused by the vast array of dishes that came out of a single constraint: take some bread and melt some cheese on it.

That brings me to today’s: a pizza-ish combination turned into grilled cheese via the use of fresh focaccia and pepperoni. It’s a good one–pin-worthy, even!

What’s your favorite bread-and-cheese combination?



Pepperoni Panini
Serves 1; easily doubled

This sandwich comes out best with supermarket mozzarella, like Polly-O or deli-sliced, rather than the fresh stuff, which can make the sandwich watery.

1 4 or 5-inch square piece focaccia, sliced in half vertically to make a top slice and a bottom slice
3 tablespoons good tomato sauce
2 slices low-moisture mozzarella (about 2 ounces)
8 thin slices pepperoni
1 tablespoon freshly grated parmesan
1 teaspoon butter

Spread the bottom half of the focaccia with the tomato sauce. Top with one slice of cheese. Arrange the pepperoni in one, overlapping layer. Top with the second slice of cheese. Sprinkle the Parmesan on top and press it down so it sticks.

Melt the butter in a small nonstick pan over medium-low heat. Carefully transfer the sandwich to the pan, being sure not to lose any filling. If you have a panini weight (I have this Lodge one), use it to press the sandwich down. Otherwise, use another clean frying pan as a weight. Cook the sandwich for 5-7 minutes, lowering the heat if the bread is getting too dark. Remove the weight, lift the panini up with a spatula, add the second teaspoon of butter, flip the panini, and place it back down. Weight it again and cook another 4-5 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the bread is golden.

Cut in half and eat immediately.

French Onion Grilled Cheese


Check out my beloved Grilled Cheese Pinboard!

My apologies: it’s the second to last day of January, and I’ve yet to post about grilled cheese. It doesn’t mean that 2012 isn’t a year of eating and writing about my favorite sandwich, er, meal.

Fortunately, it’s a good one, a classic inspired by the rich French soup, and perfect for winter. It’s also incredibly simple. Just two ingredients make this sandwich, a red onion jam created by Merrill over at Food52 and first seen on BGSK in another simple dish, a fried egg sandwich.

When I re-made this jam recently, the sweet onion smell that permeated my kitchen reminded my of a wintry favorite, French Onion Soup. Which in turn led me to think about how it would be acceptable nix the broth part of French Onion Soup (no offense to soup) and stick with just the crispy bread and cheese part. Without much ado, I spread some of the extra jam on my toasted bread before piling it with nutty Gruyere and toasting it in melted butter. Voilà: a fantastic new sandwich to add to my repertoire.

From my kitchen, starting the 2012 grilled cheese season off right, to yours,



French Onion Grilled Cheese
Serves 1

Since the red onion jam keeps for a while in the fridge, you can make it up to 2 weeks in advance and keep it on hand for your grilled cheese-making pleasure.

2 slices good whole-grain bread
4 teaspoons butter
2 tablespoons Red Onion Jam (recipe follows)
3/4 cup shredded Gruyere (pretty tightly packed, but you don’t have to smash it in)
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Lightly toast both slices of bread. Spread one side with the red onion jam, then pile on the shredded cheese. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Press the second piece of bread on top.

Melt 2 teaspoons of butter in a small frying pan over medium-low heat. Carefully place the sandwich in the pan and cook, pressing down occasionally with a spatula, until the cheese has started to melt and the bread is golden and crispy, 4-5 minutes. Lift it out of the pan with the spatula and add the remaining 2 teaspoons of butter. Flip the sandwich and return it to the pan. Cook another 4-5 minutes until the cheese is gooey and the second side is golden.

Place on a plate, cut in half, and eat immediately.

Red Onion Jam
Adapted from Food52

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup white wine
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Combine the onion, butter, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan with a lid. Saute over medium-low heat, covered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover, add the wine and vinegar and continue to cook over medium heat, stirring slightly more frequently, until there is no liquid left and the onions are soft and caramelized, about 25 minutes. Let the jam come to room temperature, then transfer to an airtight container and keep in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Golden Zucchini Sandwich

zucchini cheese sandwich

BGSK’s Other Prize-Winning Grilled Cheese Sandwiches: Grilled Cheddar Sandwich with Pears and Pecans; Perfect Grilled Cheese; Grilled Mushroom-Cheddar Melts; Prosciutto & Fontina Panini with Arugula Pesto and Pickled Shallots.

We believe there’s a pretty fine art to grilled cheese sandwiches, one that you too can achieve mastery at by watching this video.

Look, they may seem simple: some bread, some butter, some cheese. But there are finer points. And then there are tweaks.

Once you move beyond the three necessary ingredients, you move into a kind of wonderland. You get to take your wildest dreams of potential flavor combinations, then pick a cheese, pick a bread, and turn the whole thing into a hot sandwich.

I’ve always loved grating summer (or winter) squash and mixing it with angel hair or any other pasta to make a quick comfort meal that nonetheless features a hint of something healthful. I figured I’d try the same with a zucchini that was just chilling in my fridge. I cooked the grated zucchini down till it was almost a spread, then I planted it on the interior of my grilled cheese. The result was as good as my wildest dreams had figured it for.

From my kitchen, albeit, to yours,



Golden Zucchini Sandwich
Makes 2 sandwiches


2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, 1 minced, 1 made into paste with 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large zucchini, grated
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped basil, tarragon, or other fresh herb (optional)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 slices good sourdough bread, lightly toasted
1 cup freshly grated white cheddar (from about 4 ounces cheese)

In a small frying pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is just barely golden, about 1 minute. Add the grated zucchini and a large pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is cooked down and all the moisture is evaporated, about 15 minutes. It should be an almost jam-like consistency. Add the fresh herbs if using, then taste for salt and adjust accordingly. Remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, combine the garlic paste with the mayonnaise in a small bowl and mix to combine. Spread one side of each slice with the garlicky mayo. Top the un-mayo’ed sides with a quarter of the cheese, each, pressing down so it doesn’t slide around.

Distribute the zucchini mixture on top of the cheese on two of the slices, then top with the remaining two. The mayo should be facing out on all sides.

If your frying pan is large enough to hold two sandwiches, rinse it out. Otherwise, find a pan that is and heat it for about 2 minutes over medium heat. (You can also of course make the sandwiches one at a time.) Place the sandwich(es) on the pan and cook 4 minutes on the first side side, until golden on the outside and gooey on the outside, then flip carefully and cook 3-4 minutes on the second side. Remove from the pan, cut in half if you wish, and eat immediately.