• Simply Fresh by Julie Wern–Week 11

    I’ve grown a bit weary of long posts about a single featured produce item.  How about you?  I thought this week I would take a different tact.  However, for those of you new to the farm or struggling with what to do with edamame, I am linking this post to the last article I wrote on edamame (click here).  For quick reference, scroll down to the recipes at the end of this post to learn the basic method for cooking edamame.  Enjoy!


    IMG_0064A Tale of Two Grilled Cheese

    We don’t eat a lot of gluten or dairy, but occasionally I get a strong craving for pizza or a sandwich and we have a mini feast. Last week I was desperately craving a good grilled cheese sandwich, maybe because my son recently had oral surgery and kept waxing on how much he missed good, crusty bread. So once he could eat it, I planned a grilled cheese night.

    I wanted to use items from the farm and I wanted to be creative, so I came up with the idea for two different versions. One was a simple take on a BLT, using up some sugar free, nitrate free bacon I had in the fridge. To that I added perfectly ripe juicy tomato from the farm and a “mayo” of mashed avocado and lime juice. Perfection!

    The second sandwich was a complete experiment. I had long wanted to try making a beet chutney but was wondering what I would do with it once it was finished. Why of course, put in on grilled cheese! I even decided to saute up the beet greens and add it the sandwich, lest the greens end up forgotten and yellowing in my fridge.

    To round out my special meal I served the sandwiches with a traditional bowl of tomato soup. My husband, who had raised his eyebrows in suspicion when I first voiced my grilled cheese dinner plan, heartily had one of each sandwich and exclaimed the meal a veritable home run.

    People argue vehemently on how to make the best grilled cheese. My answer to anyone who asks me my opinion is rather Alice in Wonderland-esque. I say, “Well that depends a whole lot on how you like it”. Some like it crunchy on the outside, suggesting the use of a crusty bread like ciabatta or French. In fact, we are such crunch fans in our house we use a Panini press with ciabatta bread to maximize the crisp factor. Others desire it the way mom likely made it, with wonder bread in a skillet, spread with butter or mayo on the outside, and pressed with a good old fashioned spatula to help melt the cheese.

    Grilled cheese lovers also argue over the best kind of cheese. Obviously it has to be a melting or at least a softening cheese. But some insist it be gooey and stringy, as with the use of traditional cheddar or even mozzarella. Others opt for melted but creamy as is the case when using goat cheese or even American.   I prefer strongly flavored cheeses that make a bold statement, like the gruyere I used in my two versions last week. However, others want their cheese more understated–gooey, but not stealing the whole show.

    Grilled cheese add-in’s are always optional, although purists will likely balk. I proudly proclaim my love for including bacon, ham or prosciutto; sundried tomato or basil pesto, olive tapenade, sauerkraut, and even apple or pear in my favorite versions.

    I hope this tale of two grilled cheese inspires you to either try my recent combinations, or experiment with your own so that you can write your own grilled cheese stories. I know I would love to hear them. To get you started, here are some more grilled cheese ideas based upon what is coming out of the farm this week.

    • Jalapeno Jack grilled cheese with roasted poblanos and topped with fresh tomato and/or tomatillo salsa
    • Traditional grilled cheese with homemade sliced refrigerator dill pickles
    • Ciabatta grilled cheese with oven roasted tomatoes (see post from last week)
    • Caramelized onion, thin burger patty, and a mix of cream cheese and blue cheese on sourdough.
    • Grilled zucchini and eggplant with sharp provolone and basil pesto.

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    The idea for this chutney came from Bon Appetit magazine (click here), but I opted to come up with a refined sugar free version.  I also wanted more of a jam like texture so I shredded instead of chopped the beets.  This chutney would be a great alternative to cranberry sauce with turkey, or use it, along with softened goat cheese, to make festive crostini appetizers.

    Beet Chutney             Makes about 2/3 cup

    INGREDIENTS:

    – 1 medium shallot , minced
    – 1 teaspoon coconut oil
    – 1 1/3 cups shredded red beet
    – 3 tablespoons organic balsamic vinegar
    – 3/4 – 1 cup water
    – 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
    – 1 teaspoon orange zest
    – 1/4 cup dried currants or raisins
    – 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

    METHOD:

    Heat coconut oil over medium-low heat in a small saucepan. Add shallot and cook, stirring frequently, until shallot is tender and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add rest of the ingredients (using 3/4 C water) and stir well to combine. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and simmer for 30-45 minutes or until beet is very tender and mixture is thick. If liquid cooks off before beet is tender, add 1/4 cup of water and continue to simmer until done, adding more water as needed.

    Beet Chutney, Beet Green, and Gruyere Paninis      Serves 4

    INGREDIENTS:

    – 1 recipe beet chutney
    – 1 small bunch sauteed beet greens, drained of excess liquid
    – grated gruyere cheese
    – ciabatta bread, portioned, sliced in half lengthwise, some of the inner bread removed if desired
    – olive oil or coconut oil spray

    METHOD:

    1. If using a panini press, spray grill plates with oil spray (or brush with olive oil) and preheat press on medium heat on panini setting. If using a skillet, spray with oil spray and heat over medium heat.

    2. Spread about 1/4-inch layer of beet chutney on both sides of bread. On the bottom piece, spread a thin layer of beet greens. Top with grated gruyere, being careful to create neat edges of the cheese with your hands. Place top bread piece on the bottom piece.  Spray the top of the sandwich with oil spray (or brush with olive oil).

    3. Add sandwich to panini press or skillet and heat according to manufacturer’s directions. If using a skillet, use a plate or other weighted item on top to help compact the sandwich and promote melting, turning sandwich after about 6-8 minutes and cooking the same way on the opposite side until crust is browned and cheese is melted. Cut sandwiches in half and serve immediately.

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    This recipe was adapted by one I tried years ago by Tyler Florence (click here).  I lightened it to make it less caloric and a bit healthier.

    Roasted Tomato Basil Soup              Serves 4

    INGREDIENTS:

    – 2 1/2 pounds mixed fresh tomatoes, traditional, heirloom, cherry, and/or plum
    – 2 small onions, sliced
    – 10 cloves garlic, peeled
    – 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    – 3 cups home-made or purchased vegetable or chicken stock
    – 1 teaspoon honey (optional)
    – 1 tablespoon unsalted butter (optional)
    – pinch cayenne
    – 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, loosely packed
    – 1/4 cup half and half or non dairy milk of choice, optional

    METHOD:

    1. Preheat oven to 450. Core tomatoes and cut in half. Place with garlic and onion slices in a large baking or casserole dish with 2″ sides. Drizzle with olive oil and to turn to coat vegetables evenly in oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20-30 minutes or until tomato skins have blistered and are beginning to turn brown and vegetables are tender. , Shake pan every 5 minutes to redistribute juices and to avoid burning.

    2. Remove tomato mixture from oven and using a large spatula, scrap up browned bits on bottom of dish. Scrape out tomato mixture with juices into a stock pot. Add broth, sugar, butter, and cayenne. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until reduced by at least 1/3. Remove from heat. Add basil to pot and blend, either with an immersion blender, or carefully in batches in a regular blender until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste. If using half and half, return to pot, stir in half and half or dairy substitute and reheat just until hot.

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    This is the basic method for cooking edamame.  The exact amounts of water and salt are not important.  Just make sure you have enough water for the beans to swim around in and salt it to taste.

    Basic Edamame

    INGREDIENTS:

    – 2 1/2 cups fresh soybeans
    – 1 tablespoon table salt
    – 1/2 teaspoon Course grain sea salt or kosher salt, or more to taste

    METHOD:

    Place 6 cups water in a large stock pot and add table salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, rinse soybeans well, rubbing with hands under water to remove any loose dirt. Place soybeans carefully in salted boiling water and boil for 2-5 minutes or until soybeans float to the top, beans are crisp tender, and come easily out of the pods with a nice “pop”. Pour out into a colander and drain. Sprinkle with sea or kosher salt and serve immediately.

    NOTE:

    For interesting variations, try using specialty sea salts or flavored salts. I love using smoked salt, or tea (especially Lapsong Souchong) salt (place tea leaves and salt in a coffee grinder and grind until smooth..sprinkle on hot edamame)

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    Julie Wern is a health coach, food writer, and caterer who is passionate about health, food, and vital living.  For direct comments or inquiries please use this contact form to send a message to Julie.  To comment on the blog, scroll down further to the blog comment section:

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