Cucumber Goat Cheese Grilled Cheese

DSC_8607

Grilled cheese sandwiches are a guilty pleasure of mine. When I lived on Capitol Hill, if Mindy and I both happened to come home sometime after midnight on the same night, you’d probably catch us drowsily eating at our kitchen table together — quesadilla in Mindy’s hands, and a grilled cheese in mine. Sharing the frying pan and teddy bear spatula was always an option (the bear spatula is no longer manufactured, but this is my favorite spatula for flipping and cutting sandwiches).

Making grilled cheese sandwiches between midnight and 4 AM has its advantages: simplicity, extra butter, and no regrets. Making grilled cheese sandwiches at brunch also has its advantages: ability to use a knife without ending up in the ER, healthier choices, and sometimes, less cheese all over the kitchen counter.

DSC_8591

DSC_8595

DSC_8608

It’s no secret that goat cheese is hands-down my favorite cheese. This does not explain why I’ve never made a grilled cheese sandwich with goat cheese before.

Perhaps it was because I was raised on an upscale classic: sourdough bread instead of white bread, and sharp cheddar instead of American. Light margarine or butter on both sides of both slices of bread.

With that, you really can’t go wrong. But we try to be creative. This grilled cheese remix is a great option for a refreshing lunch on a hot summer day. And who doesn’t love the crunch of a fresh cucumber?

Lots of photos in this post today… I couldn’t stop clicking. Cucumbers are just so pretty.

DSC_8598

DSC_8599

DSC_8602

DSC_8606

DSC_8609

Cucumber Goat Cheese Grilled Cheese (makes two sandwiches)

2 slices of whole wheat sourdough bread (or 4 halved slices, if the boule is large)
1 small package plain goat cheese — leave this out for an hour or so to reach room temperature
2 Japanese cucumbers, in 1/8-inch slices
Olive oil

Heat a cast iron skillet (don’t have one? this is a great affordable option you will not regret) and over the stove — first at high heat to get the pan very hot, but then reduce the flame all the way to low. We like the slow-cooked grilled cheese sandwiches.

Using a pastry brush, lightly coat each side of each slice of bread. Spread a healthy layer of goat cheese on the bottom slice, and then arrange your cucumber slices on top of the goat cheese. Carefully place the first half of your sandwich on the skillet, and sprinkle with salt and pepper, if you like.

Then, spread a thin layer of goat cheese on the next slice. Place this slice on top of the first one, and let it sit on the stove for about five minutes — make sure your heat is LOW. Use a spatula to lift the bottom slice — if it’s nice and golden, go ahead and flip your sandwich. Let that side sit for four to five minutes. When the second side is just as golden, go ahead and remove the sandwich from the pan. Repeat for sandwich number two, and serve with remaining cucumber slices, if you haven’t been munching on them already.

Roasted beets, goat cheese, pistachio

8402799061_176bf6404d_z

Chicago was one of the cities that I meant to visit years before I actually did.

I don’t know why it took me so long. Perhaps I spent too much money visiting Boston. But at some point, I had too many good friends from both California and DC living in Chicago to not visit.

8402799401_ec1119a292_z

8402803493_50240111de_z

So I went last October. And miraculously, I saw each person that I had been wanting to visit for years. They, mostly from a number of different social circles, showed me something about Chicago that they loved. And that, ladies and gentleman, is how to visit a new city.

A happy couple, Nick and Steffi, having recently married and recently developed a taste for going to really, really good restaurants, brought me to the Purple Pig — a small plates type restaurant that pretty much knew exactly what I wanted to eat.

One of the first dishes is something that stuck with me — and it was something I knew I could revive as a moment when I returned to DC. This. Dish.

 

8403896184_2f384c7e8b_z

8402803141_6472a288c4_z

Roasted Beets, Whipped Goat Cheese, and Pistachio

Ingredients
3 or 4 medium-sized beets
1/4 cup goat cheese
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup cream cheese
Lightly toasted pistachios, for topping

First, heat your oven to 400 degrees.

Remove the greens and the ends from your beets with a sharp knife. Rinse them thoroughly, as beets usually have some dirt stuck in their skins, especially if they have a crack or two. Then, wrap the  beets in a large piece of foil — some people like to roast each beet in its own foil (I imagine they would roast faster) but I wrapped them all together. I added about 1 tablespoon of water to the foil packet, and folded and sealed the foil so that it would release a minimal amount of steam.

Place your foiled beets on a baking sheet or pan with a rim (in case the foil leaks), and bake in the oven for about 60 minutes, until you can easily stick a fork into the center of the vegetable. When the beets are finished, open the foil and let them cool until you can comfortably hold one in your hand.

Over the sink, rub the beets to peel off the skin — this should happen easily. If the skin doesn’t rub right off, the beets should go back into the oven for another 10 minutes or so.

As you let the beets fully cool, combine your goat cheese, yogurt, and cream cheese in a small mixing bowl, and whisk or beat with a hand mixer until light and fluffy — about 5-6 minutes. Serve beets with a dollop of your whipped goat cheese, and top generously with pistachios.

English Muffins

I have a confession to make.

I am not a morning person.  Definitely.  Not.  Me.

Weird, right?  I know.  I used to think all bakers were morning people, too.  Sorry.  I was wrong.  I’m one of those girls that has to set an alarm at 6 AM to wake up sometime between 7:30 and 8.  I really do hit the snooze button that much.  It’s a problem.  How am I ever going to own a bakery? Continue reading “English Muffins”

Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Tart

or How I taught my friends to stop freaking out and love running in the cold.

Have I ever told you that I started a running club?  I don’t think I have — so, for your information, I did.  And it’s fabulous.

At the cookie rager, a couple of friends expressed their interest in running, but also a fear of pain and suffering.  We established a weekly running club, which meets on Monday evenings for an easy jog around Washington, and ends with a Sweetsonian dinner — called Monday Rundays.  Oh, and it’s ladies only.  Very important.

It’s happened a few times now, with the holidays interrupting a few weeks — travel schedules, abhorrent weather, etc.  In my opinion, it’s a great way to start off each week: one easy run. Add girlish chatter, a smidgeon of complaints, and a slew of sarcasm.  Within thirty minutes, I have a dinner party of women (girls?) who had no idea that they could be hooked on running.  I only know they are hooked because Rachel skipped the run tonight (so lame, I know) and came to dinner feeling so guilty and lazy that she pledged not to skip out on our run again.

I usually put the girls to work as space permits in the closet that is disguised as my kitchen, and we normally assemble a very healthy runner’s dinner — high in protein, low in complex carbs.

I would never in my life make this — this beautiful tart — after a run.  What a waste!  No way.  I would only make this dish on a day of complete lethargy and indulgence.  A day filled with shopping, sleeping, and probably (obviously) gluttony.

But anyway, days like that balance out the other days in my life, most of which are spent training for half marathons.  And speaking of, tomorrow is day three of training.  Good-bye, gluttony :(

WHAT YOU NEED:


for the crust (makes about 2 6-inch tarts):
1 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour
6 tablespoons butter, cold and diced into 1/4-inch cubes
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 teaspoons cold water


for caramelized onion the filling:
1 or 2 medium-sized onions
enough goat cheese to fill your tart mold


for the spinach quiche:
2 eggs
150 mL of milk (I didn’t try to convert the European measurements)
1 small onion, finely diced
a generous handful of fresh spinach, chopped finely
sprinkles of cheddar or goat cheese
salt and pepper to taste

WHAT TO DO:

To make the crust, simply combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse-grind until finely mixed, and the dough begins to form a ball.  Then, remove the dough, knead in any straggling pieces, and roll to your desired thickness.  I prefer a very thin crust, usually about 1/8 of an inch.  After rolling, transfer to your tart dish, fork the base to prevent bubbles, and bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.

For the caramelized onion and goat cheese tarts, first slice the onions as thinly as possible.  Drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil into a wide, shallow pan, and sautee the onions until soft.  Add one minced clove of garlic, and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Cook on low for about twenty minutes, stirring frequently.  Some people like to add a little sugar to speed the caramelization, but I prefer my onions as savory as possible — there’s enough sugar in them to begin with!  When your onions are fairly transparent and a deep brown color, you’ll know you’re done.

crumble the goat cheese in your tarts, and top with the hot caramelized onions.  I let them sit in the oven at 350 degrees for another ten minutes — it added a little bit of color to the crust and melted the goat cheese to better mold into the tart.

For the quiche, first whip the eggs and milk in a medium mixing bowl.  Then, sautee the onion in a tablespoon or so of olive oil.  Add the spinach, and remove from heat after spinach has completely collapsed — 30 seconds to one minute.  Combine with the egg and milk mixture, and pour into your half-cooked tart crust.  Bake the quiche at 300 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.

Pizza Bianca

Everyone grew up with pizza, right? Sleepovers, elementary school pizza parties, Book-its (remember those?)… pizza took up some sort of memory in American households in the 80s and 90s.  After all, our parents were workaholics, and not everyone could have been blessed with home-cooked meals every single living day of their lives.  It was always that special treat we got as kids, like soda and ice cream, if and when dinner turned to disaster or the amount of effort required to feed a pool party exceeded the time and patience available in the kitchen.  Birthday parties and movie nights were filled with pizzas in my childhood.

After spending last weekend in New York, and the week prior in Louisiana and Mississippi, I was on a veggie detox.  Never have I eaten such vast amounts of unhealthy food and drink.  I’ve done my fair share of attempting to visit New York without having a slice of pizza, but it just doesn’t work.  Ever.  I don’t know what it is, but that city’s reputation for pizza aligned with my absolute love for all foods orgasmic Italian will probably contribute to the end of me, in 80 years, insha’allah.  We stumbled across Rocky’s pizzeria in Manhattan, and I had “Grandma’s pizza,” loaded with fresh, minced roasted garlic and some sort of pureed bruschetta-like sauce.  My inquiry regarding the types of tomatoes or any other ingredients was respectfully denied, and replaced with a plate of chocolate mousse.  To diefor.  I’ll dream about that pizza until I figure out how to clone its recipe.  And then I won’t tell anyone, simply requiring your presence to witness how amazing it really is.  I don’t know exactly when or how I fell in love with food and hosting dinners, but as you can see via this blog, this lustful romance has taken over my life.

A number of friends are in Washington this weekend, en route from cities all over the world. Naturally, my town house looks like a tornado swept through, dropping off traveling goods from India, Bolivia, and other American cities that my friends have been through — I really am lucky to have friends all over the world. I am, after all, visiting one in Bogota this summer.

Will I take my pizza recipes to South America? It honestly depends on how much time I spend salsa dancing. I’d rather be salsa dancing than anything else — that’s one of the downsides of living in Washington. The salsa dancing scene sucks. I guess I do miss one thing from Los Angeles — Third Street Promenade street salsa Sunday evenings. If Washington had something similar, my life would feel slightly more complete.

Anyway, I made two different types of white pizza for my visitors, who have, consequently, been eating non-stop for the past 48 hours: broccoli-feta-mozzarella, and a zucchini/goat cheese and lemon pizza. They make a really easy and impressive quick fix for having more than enough guests to enjoy a balcony brunch on a breezy, beautiful Saturday morning.

WHAT YOU NEED:

for the zucchini pizza:

Pizza dough.  For the sake of time, I used Trader Joe’s ready-made, one dollar pizza dough.
1 fresh zucchini
Lots of goat cheese
1 lemon, or 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
Fresh, cracked pepper
Olive oil, for working with the pizza dough

for the broccoli pizza:

(More) pizza dough
2 to 3 cups fresh broccoli, tossed in olive oil, salt, and pepper
1 cup feta cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese
Olive oil

WHAT TO DO:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Making pizza is pretty self-explanatory, and I’m positive that you understand the idea.  I like to keep my pizza crusts thin and even: no one likes biting into a doughy crust that could have used another five minutes in the oven.  So play it safe, and spread the crust to be extra thin (but don’t puncture it).

I don’t use sauces on my white pizzas, although, alfredo or some other white cheese sauce would be to die for.  Or even pesto — yes, I often use pesto on my pizzas instead of tomato sauce.  For the zucchini pizza, I used my fingers to spread a soft goat cheese evenly on the crust, and then used a vegetable peeler to slice the zucchini.  I like having the zucchini extra thin on pizzas because it bakes to a crisp and just looks beautiful.  After dressing the pizza with the zucchini, use a pepper mill to grind fresh pepper to your liking, and squeeze some fresh lemon juice all over the pizza, to get a nice tangy flavor in each slice of zucchini.

The broccoli pizza is easy — simply toss the broccoli, feta, and mozzarella together in a bowl, and evenly spread the toppings over your crust.  Sometimes I like to add a little basil or marjoram to the mix.  For both pizzas, bake for 12 to 17 minutes.  To roast the vegetables, I turned the heat of the oven up to about 400 degrees for the last few minutes.