This week, I was inspired by two great things: grilled cheese and Mark Bittman. Mark Bittman is a writer for The New York Times. Over the past year, he has written sev-eral food “matrices” for the Sunday magazine, which allow the reader to assemble their own dishes by choosing an ingredient from each section. And, while a classic grilled cheese is always good, a jazzed-up grilled cheese is even better. So, I have broken down the various elements for a grilled cheese sandwich and brainstormed lots of options. I have also in-cluded some suggested combinations, but feel free to use your imagination!
Once you have made your choices, mak-ing the sandwich itself is a rather simple pro-cess. If you are using toppings that should not be raw (like meat or eggs) be sure to cook them separately before adding them to your sandwich. Heat a pan over medium heat and melt enough butter to just coat the pan. Cook each side of the assembled sandwich for just a couple of minutes, until the cheese melts and the bread is golden. If you have a lot of things in your sandwich, you may want to turn down the heat to make sure that the bread doesn’t brown too much before the cheese melts.
Bake your own!
BASIC BREAD RECIPE
3 cups of bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt
1 teaspoon of instant yeast
1 1/4 cups of water
Mix ingredients in a bowl for 5 to 6 minutes, until well blended. It should be tacky enough to stick to the bottom of the bowl but not so sticky that it is unwieldy. You can add more water or flour as needed to reach this consistency.
Lightly coat a clean bowl with cooking spray or olive oil, put in the dough and cover with plastic wrap. Leave the dough in the re-frigerator overnight to ferment (it is okay to skip this step to save time). Leave the bowl of dough in a warm place for about 2 to 3 hours, or until it doubles.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees (or as hot as your oven goes). Fill a loaf pan with a little bit of water and put it on the bottom rack of your oven; this will stay in while you bake the bread.
Flour your hands and work space. Form the dough into a desired shapes (baguettes, round loaf, etc.) score the top a couple of times then put into the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden.
Mustard (whole grain, honey, etc.)
Pesto (basil, spinach or sundried tomato)
Balsamic vinegar reduction (Bring bal-samic vinegar to a boil over medium-high heat; cook for about eight minutes, or until the vinegar thickens)
Aioli (try garlic or roasted red pepper)
ROASTED RED PEPPER AIOLI,
adapted from Cooking Light
Finely chopped roasted red peppers
(jarred or make your own)
1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut bell pepper in half lengthwise and discard seeds and membranes. Put pepper halves, skin side up, on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. Coat with olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until blackened. Immediately put the peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for 15 to 30 minutes to cool and then peel.
Combine peppers, mayonnaise, oil and cayenne; stir well and use.
Thinly sliced granny smith apple
Roasted red peppers
Possible combinations: bread, balsamic re-duction, brie, thinly sliced green apples; bread, sundried tomato pesto, goat cheese, spinach, caramelized onions; bread, aged cheddar, gruyere, tomato.
Contact Emily Suskin at