Caprese Grilled Cheese

Pardon our absence! It’s been a whirlwind of a summer, but I know that our blog readers are awesome and will forgive us.

It started with the passing of my dear Grandma, and that’s all I can say about that right now, because I’d prefer to write this blog post with clear eyes.

And then our whole family had the privilege of being involved in the wedding of two wonderful friends. Levi made his first ring bearer debut, I had my first bridesmaid experience (and first ever manicure – thanks, Miriam!), and Dustin was a groomsman. It was a truly joyful event!

Throw several bridal showers into the mix (from Modesto to Mill Valley, all the way down to San Diego), a toddler who has officially entered the terrible twos (though I’m still incredibly blessed to be his mommy – I love seeing how his personality is blooming), and the fact that the whole family is gearing up for Discretion Brewing‘s opening this fall, and you have a summer that basically  flew by in the blink of an eye. You also have what might have been the world’s longest run on sentence. So I’m a little rusty, folks, but it’s okay, because I really just want to share this grilled cheese recipe with you. We ate it voraciously this evening.

Fall is approaching, and we must embrace tomatoes while we still can! This grilled cheese sandwich consists of two kinds of tomatoes – a yellow heirloom  and a red dry farmed variety, fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil from our garden, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. What makes it extra special? The bread. I spread sliced sweet french bread with butter, and seasoned it with garlic powder and oregano. So, basically you have two pieces of garlic bread sandwiching your Caprese salad – a cool center and a warm outside. Now that’s going out (of summer) with a bang.

As we bid farewell to summer (wait, I blinked – what happened to it?) and say hello to fall, a season near and dear to my heart, I may not be posting quite as frequently, as we are all working hard towards our brewery’s opening (stay on top of our progress and find out our opening date on our Facebook page!) But when I’m not crazy-busy, I will continue to share with you what’s coming out of our kitchen.

Bon Appetite and Cheers, dear readers!

Caprese Grilled Cheese

4 Slices French bread
Butter (salted is preferred), at room temperature
Garlic powder
Dried oregano
Fresh Mozzarella, sliced
Heirloom and/or dry farmed tomatoes, sliced
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Balsamic vinegar
Fresh, whole basil leaves

  • Preheat your broiler.
  • Spread your bread slices on both sides (gasp!) with butter. Season with garlic powder and oregano.
  • Place buttered/seasoned slices on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place under the broiler and broil until nice and golden. Flip, and broil until the other side is golden. Remove baking sheet from oven. Turn off broiler and heat oven to 400 degrees.
  • On two of the bread slices, pile on sliced mozzarella and sliced tomatoes. Season the tomatoes lightly with salt and pepper and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Add the fresh basil leaves. Top with the remaining two slices of bread. Return to oven for just a few minutes. The middle of the sandwich will still be cool (like a caprese salad) but you want to warm up the bread just a little before serving. Enjoy! Makes 2 caprese grilled cheese sandwiches.

Poached Eggs in Tomato Sauce with Chickpeas and Feta

When the December issue of Bon Appetit introduced me to shakshuka, a popular dish in Israel, it screamed comfort to me. You crack eggs over a simmering aromatic tomato sauce, seasoned with paprika, cumin, jalapeño, and garlic, and then transfer the skillet to the oven for them to poach. Chickpeas add substance, crumbled feta adds creaminess, and chopped cilantro adds brightness. Place the hot skillet (carefully) in the middle of the table and dig in with pita bread for dipping. If you succeed in poaching the eggs just right, the whites will be set and the yolks will be nice and runny. I was not so successful. After the suggested 5-8 minutes of cooking time, my whites were still clear, so I let them go a little longer and then they overcooked. Alas. It was still delicious, however, and I’ve been blogging long enough to feel comfortable admitting my screw-up. The next morning I redeemed myself. I fried two eggs (perfectly over easy, I might add – I’m more comfortable cooking eggs in a pan than in the oven) and placed them over the leftover tomato sauce/chickpea/feta mixture. Amazing. There are not many meals that I’d gladly eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner, but this is one of them.

The holidays can be a time of stress, whether it’s menu planning for your first Christmas dinner, braving the crowds downtown to find the perfect sweater for uncle so-and-so, or entertaining last minute out-of-town guests. Or in my case, maybe you have a 20 month old who can go from being the sweetest boy in the world to screaming at the top of his lungs when Mommy decides it’s time to leave the children’s section of the bookstore to pay for our books. In the midst of this kind of week, may I suggest this meal as a quick (and more importantly, comforting) weeknight dinner. In 30 minutes it can be on your table, and as soon as you tear off that first piece of pita and dip it into the bubbling sauce, you’ll be reminded of what matters. There is good food to be had. And look at the people sitting around your dinner table – you’re truly lucky to have them. Looking at my own (grown-up) baby reminds me of that baby in a manger, oh so long ago, who embodied love and grace for the world; I don’t know about you, but I could sure use some of that right about now.

Poached Eggs in Tomato Sauce with Chickpeas and Feta

(From the December 2011 issue of Bon Appetit)

1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 jalapeños, seeded, finely chopped
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
2 teaspoons Hungarian sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand, juices reserved*
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup coarsely crumbled feta
8 large eggs**
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
Warm pita bread

*I used one 15 oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes, and one 15 oz. can of Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes (had to make use of what was in my pantry).

**For the 3 of us (yes, Levi actually counts as a whole person now when it comes to serving sizes), I used 5 eggs. I kept the amount of tomato sauce the same, even though the original recipes says it serves 4-6. It makes wonderful leftovers, and you can always fry an egg (or 2) the next morning and place it on top of the sauce.

  • Preheat oven to 425°. Heat oil in a large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, and jalapeños; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 8 minutes. Add chickpeas, paprika, and cumin and cook for 2 minutes longer.
  • Add crushed tomatoes and their juices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens slightly, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle feta evenly over sauce. Crack eggs one at a time and place over sauce, spacing evenly apart. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until whites are just set but yolks are still runny, 5–8 minutes. Garnish with parsley and cilantro. Serve with pita for dipping..

Curried Sweet Potato Hash

Writer’s block. Why me?  On a good day I can write three paragraphs about something as simple as a grilled cheese sandwich. On others, like today, I feel like I can’t even do justice to the 6th Anniversary meal that we enjoyed at Casablanca this past weekend, other than it was delicious / exquisite / flavorful / [enter your favorite food adjective here].

I can tell you that ocean views, micro-brews, crispy calamari, and baked mac ‘n triple cheese were involved, and that as we consumed these things, we looked out onto the very beach where we took our wedding pictures and said “I do.” And I’m not sure which was better – the strawberries and honeyed ricotta sandwiched between two delicate, buttery house-made shortbread cookies paired with a local pinot noir? Or the opportunity to eat out as a couple, minus the high chair? Let’s just call it a tie.

Since I just confessed my recent lack of words, it’s a good thing that this curried sweet potato hash doesn’t need a verbose description. Hash isn’t a particularly glamorous dish, but it’s easy and comforting, which is what I’ve been needing lately. Cubed potatoes and sweet potatoes are the base, to which you add a colorful melange of chopped red peppers, onions, mushrooms, and spinach. The curry powder/heavy cream/Worcestershire mixture that you pour over the vegetables adds that “mmm, what’s in this?” element  to the final product, and elevates the hash from its usual place on a breakfast or brunch menu to what I deem a suitable weeknight dinner.

The original recipe includes leftover cooked chicken or turkey, but I wanted to make  a vegetarian hash for a “meatless Monday” so I increased the amount of potatoes. If you want to try the turkey or chicken version, reduce the amount of potatoes to 1 1/2 cups and add 2 cups cubed, cooked turkey or chicken. I’m definitely going to be making this again after Thanksgiving! I served our hash with skillet cornbread, a salad, and of course a couple glasses of wine. Cheers to the simple meals today, memories of extravagant meals in the past, and hopefully more eloquent descriptions of meals in the future.

Curried Sweet Potato Hash

(Slightly adapted from “Cozy Turkey Hash” in The New Basics Cookbook)

3 cups cubed, cooked potato (a mixture of white and sweet)
1/4 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped mushrooms
2 big handfuls baby spinach, roughly chopped
3 TBS. chopped fresh parsley
5 TBS. heavy cream
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 TBS. vegetable oil + 1 TBS. butter

  • Preheat the broiler.
  • Combine the  potatoes, onion, bell pepper, mushrooms, spinach and parsley in a large bowl. Toss well.
  • In another bowl, stir together the cream, egg, garlic, Worcestershire, curry powder, paprika, salt, and pepper.
  • Stir the cream mixture into the potato mixture and let stand for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Heat the oil and butter in a 10-inch oven-proof nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the potato mixture, cover, and cook until the bottom is set, about 5 minutes.
  • Transfer the skillet to the broiler and broil until the top is set and golden, 5 minutes. Serve immediately. Makes 2-3 servings.