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grilled cheese

Summer Tomato Basil Cheddar Panini

Summer Tomato Basil Cheddar Panini

In the summer, elaborate recipe creations rarely take place in my kitchen. Really, those fancy, multi-hour-long cooking sessions don’t happen with frequency during any time of the year. (What can I say, other than that I’ve got an impatient stomach and an endless list of hobbies to keep in mind. Both apply not only to summer, but spring, fall and winter too…)

However, its summertime when 3-ingredient meals reach their highest occurrence. Fruit, fruit and nuts ¬†— breakfast is served. Tomatoes, mayo, bread — lunch, no stove needed. Dinner — dare I say repeat lunch? But don’t forget the bowl of peaches, blueberries and ice cream on the side. Or maybe a garden salad with tomatoes/cucumbers/red onion/steamed green beans/beets/carrots/goat cheese/walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette. I know, that’s a lot more than 3-ingredients going into one bowl. But the three steps it takes to get them there — slice, drizzle and serve — and you might as well file it under the same suit.¬†Simplicity at its best.

When garden-fresh ingredients are around, forget having them shaken or stirred, or even always heated. I want them straight-up. There’s no need for complex preparations. A tomato plucked straight from the vine has all the flavor you could ever wish for, and then some.

Summer Tomato Basil Cheddar Panini

If it were summer all year around, I’d have to pull a Rachael Ray. Maybe even out-do her by trimming away 20 minutes and starting my own “10-Minutes or Less” show. Of course that would be pretty boring. “Step one – Wash blueberries. Step two – Eat.”

Obviously I don’t survive off of single ingredients alone all summer long. But I do make a lot of easy dishes like tacos, sandwiches and stir-frys. The kind where all you have to do is put a bunch of veggies with some olive oil/simple marinade on a baking sheet and roast, or in a saute pan, do a quick cook, and let their flavors speak for themselves.

The recipe below is one of my favorites for when tomatoes are at their prime, and basil is up and growing. It elevates my favorite tomato-mayo combo to the next level with the simple addition of cheese and a quick press on a panini maker. Classic and simple, yet totally blog-worthy, considering I could eat this several times a week and still never get bored.

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Vegan Pear Grilled Cheese

I wasn’t brought up on grilled cheese. My mom was the one taking the cheese off my pizza, not melting it on my sandwiches. But as I shifted into grade school, curiosity got the best of my taste-buds, and the ooey gooey sandwich entered my diet. Of course I was in love, and like the rest of my peers, the sandwich represented true comfort food. Tomato soup-dipped grilled cheese was all I wanted on a chilly fall day, stuck inside a school that was hardly ever adequately heated. While I shed the vegan diet, I was still primarily a vegetarian during my grade school years. So come lunch time, I’d often be sifting through all the deli meat sandwiches to find that one remaining gold foil wrapped grilled cheese. There never were enough of those. The gummy orange cheese laid on two slices of soft white bread that never got quite crisped enough was nowhere near gourmet. But, it did the job of fulfilling my 8th grade appetite.

As I grew older, I started shifting back to my vegan childhood and eliminated a considerable amount of dairy out of my diet. I’m not vegan, but I try not to eat cheese on a frequent basis, making it so grilled cheese never truly became a comfort food of mine. However, don’t get me wrong. I still love the warm, cheesy sandwich and am occasionally caught playing with its ingredients in the kitchen. Brie and apple on crusty cinnamon raisin bread? Yes please.

Having a craving for grilled cheese, I decided to return to the classic and give in to my melted desire. However, this time I kept it vegan, swapping the dairy for Daiya. Playing up the flavors of fall, I added sliced pear, along with sweet and acidic, balsamic-glazed onions. This was a match made in heaven. The creamy Daiya with the juicy pear and full-flavored onions made this adult adaptation a (vegan) grilled cheese winner.

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