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Friday, July 29, 2011

grilled cheese with mozzarella, kale, and proscuitto

i essentially doubled my cookbook collection a couple of weeks ago. food magazine editors are sent a lot  of cookbooks for promotion, and, lucky me, i happen to know one who had acquired enough of them that she'd created a "free" box that i was invited to pilfer. i came home with 11 shiny new cookbooks, and food and gardening books. SCORE. 

one book that seemed at first as though it had no reason to exist is called grilled cheese, please! i wasn't convinced that the humble (and, let's face it, already mastered) grilled cheese needed 148 dedicated pages, but i took it anyway. and it's spectacular. 

the author, laura werlin, states in her forward that grilled cheese has "grown up." certainly, reading through the recipes she offers, i have to agree. she's using a range of rustic to fancy-pants cheeses and breads, and incorporates tons of other ingredients, including meats, fruits, veggies and pickles. some are dipped in jams or topped with relish. there are plenty of exciting, and a few downright weird, combinations. 

we started with the mozzarella with crispy proscuitto and broccoli rabe recipe, substituting kale for the rabe since we have some growing in our backyard. we talked about this sandwich for days! things like, "i can't believe how much i liked that sandwich!" "yeah, i was just thinking that!" use good fresh italian bread and whole milk mozzarella and you can't go wrong. the recipe calls for crisping up the proscuitto in a skillet before assembling the sandwich, but it doesn't seem necessary to me. crunchy, crispy, gooey, salty, creamy yumminess!

grilled cheese with mozzarella, kale and proscuitto
makes 2 sandwiches

4 thin slices proscuitto
olive oil
1/2 bunch kale, rough chopped
dash of red pepper flakes
4 sandwich-size slices italian bread
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, drained and sliced if water packed, otherwise coarsely grated.

heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. add kale and saute until wilted but still bright green. stir in red pepper flakes, if using. (if your mozzarella is really mild, you may want to add a dash of salt to the kale as well.)

to assemble: brush one side of each bread slice with olive oil. oil side down, add half of kale to two bread slices, then proscuitto, then mozzarella. top with remaining bread. you may need to compress the sandwiches with your hand or spatula if the cheese is piled high.

heat skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes. lower sandwiches in pan, cover, and cook for about 3 minutes. (i know covering it seems weird, but laura insists it's the best way to get the cheese to melt before the bread has a chance to burn.) when browned, flip and cover and cook a minute or so more, until other side browned and cheese is melted. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

jerry traunfeld's spiced chickpea salad

i first heard about this recipe last fall when i attended a "holiday preview" of sorts at interbay whole foods. they had invited a group of foodie folks to sample their new thanksgiving dinner offerings and, la-di-da, i got to go because jill lightner, the editor of edible seattle, gets invited to this kind of thing and sometimes invites me to come along. at this particular event, food photographer, writer, preparer, eater (not sure what her professional title is, but she seems to do pretty much everything when it comes to food!) myra kohn, who writes the "recipe box" column for edible seattle, came by our table to chat with jill. they talked about recipes she was testing for upcoming issues of the magazine, and one that sounded particularly exciting was a chickpea salad from chef jerry traunfeld. i had to wait until the may/june issue to try it out, but it was worth the wait. 

these chickpeas get a super-yum rating. some even call them addicting. they are spiced but not hot, creamy but not heavy, and are a perfect side dish for spring and summer meals. they also come together really fast. try them as an alternative to potato salad at your next barbeque if you want to serve something deliciously unexpected! 

jerry traunfeld's chickpea salad

2 cups cooked chickpeas
2 tablespoons peanut oil, or other vegetable oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
1/4 teaspoon ajwain seed, or substitute fennel seed or celery seed (i used celery seed)
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup chopped green onion
1/2 cup whole milk yogurt (i've tried with low-fat and whole milk yogurt, and the whole milk was definitely better!)

put chickpeas in a bowl.

pour oil in small skillet over medium-high heat. when oil is hot, add the mustard seed, cover the pan (the seeds will sputter and pop and be launched out of the pan otherwise), and turn heat to low. when the seeds stop sputtering, uncover and add the cumin, ajwain (or fennel or celery seeds), and chili flakes and cook for about 10 seconds, until spices are fragrant and browning. immediately pour the oil and spices over the chickpeas.

add the lemon juice, salt, cilantro, and green onion and toss to coat. stir in yogurt. serve immediately, or refrigerate and bring to room temperature before serving.

chickpeas from alvarez farms