Artisanal Grilled Cheese Sandwich (thank you Susan!)

Last week I gave a studio tour to 40+ photograph students from Long Beach City College. For the past few years I’ve been a proud member of the advisory committee for the photography department, and it tickles me to no end to meet with the students. This year’s group was particularly bright and full of insight, asking tons of valuable questions that ran the gamut from studio management and self-promotion to the logistics of photographing food. I made sure to have the books we’ve shot on the table for the students to see, and later someone asked me about The Encyclopedia Of Sandwiches. It was at this point that I admitted, like I always do when people ask, that I actually took one or more bites of every single sandwich from this book.

Yes, you read that right. I tasted every single sandwich.

Because this was actually work, I’ve prepared a highly scientific flow chart to show you the studio’s exact process.

Now, if you’re a sandwich lover it’s probably a dream job you’re thinking, and you’re correct. Susan Russo, my friend and the book’s author, covers every base when it comes to sandwiches, from the traditional to more off-the-way types of concoctions. While I would gladly repeat the entire process, I’m pretty happy enjoying one particular sandwich from the book. And I’ve been meaning to tell you about it for quite some time.

This recipe for Artisanal Grilled Cheese comes from Chef Mark Peel at Campanile, a place that’s been a favorite of mine (as well as a client!) for years. It’s not the easiest sandwich in terms of labor and ingredients, but trust me, it’s one of the most delicious. Then again, find a grilled cheese sandwich that’s NOT delicious and I’ll show you, well, I’m not sure what I’ll show you. I’m too busy eating sandwiches.

 Artisanal Grilled Cheese Sandwich
3 to 4 garlic cloves, sliced, plus 2 whole garlic cloves for rubbing bread
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
8 ounces cherry tomatoes
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 slices sourdough bread
1 pound burrata cheese, cut into ¼-inch slices
4 ounces chickpeas
Salsa Verde (see recipe below)
4 slices prosciutto

  • Preheat over to 500˚F. In a skillet, add garlic and 1 cup cold water, cover and bring to a boil over medium heat. Drain garlic and return to pan; 1 cup cold water, cover, and bring to a boil again; remove from heat. Drain water and pat garlic dry. In the same pan, heat oil over medium heat and fry 1 to 2 minutes, being careful not to burn it.
  • Spread cherry tomatoes on a baking sheet. Drizzle with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Toss with chickpeas and salsa verde.
  • Grill or toast bread slices. Transfer to a serving plate and rub with garlic. Place 2 to 2 cheese slices on each bread slice. Top each with one-quarter of the tomato-chickpea mixture and 1 slice prosciutto. Sprinkle with fried garlic chips. Makes 4 open-faced sandwiches.

 

Salsa Verde
3 or 4 salt-packed anchovies, rinsed well, backbone removes, and finely chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons plus ½ teaspoon capers, rinsed and finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh marjoram leaves
1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
fresh lemon juice, to taste

  • Using a mortar and pestle, pulverize anchovies, capers, garlic, and salt to a smooth paste. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, thinly chop ingredients and smash with the flat of a knife; you can also use a small food processor to puree them.
  • Add parsley, marjoram, and mint and continue pulverizing to break down herbs. Slowly add olive oil, stirring well to combine. Just before serving, season to taste with salt and lemon juice. Makes about 1 cup.



“Street Food”

Regular physical activities, such as walking and jogging, undertaken in my “colorful” neighborhood yield interesting vistas, moments and scenes. Case in point: A jar of Sandwich Spread carrying a double-ply bologna sandwich resting on the sidewalk.  Waiting. And for whom? Why abandon a sandwich? Was a packet of spread or mayo insufficient? I suppose I shall never know. Luckily my iphone is never far.

Yes, “colorful” can mean hood.

Apologies to Best Foods. Or not.

Winter Citrus, Revisited

This is a story about winter citrus. More specifically, it’s a story about finding a day to play in a photo studio, complete with beautiful props and gorgeous styling. It’s a story dedicated to free form (there are no recipes here!), to abundant light, to taking it slow and easy during the new year, but mostly it’s a story about bright happy little fruit that inspires me.

As we enter another year (and I blog another year longer), I always come to citrus in January. Maybe because citrus represents the best of what the world has to offer. Maybe it’s the fruit’s inherent sparkle, the zing it brings to all things sweet and savory. Maybe because it’s not necessarily fleeting, but like a good strong friend that makes you smile because you know it has your back. Am I anthropromorphizing too much? Indeed I am. But I can’t help it. I guess I’m just tapping into the thousands and thousands of years that we have embraced lemons, limes, and oranges, and they are as much a part of our world as the air that we breathe.

It’s also a story about the things we like to make using citrus.

I develop a certain kind panic when I realize I’m out of lemons in my kitchen. Next to garlic, some sea salt and a few good knives, I feel like I should always have lemons on hand just in case. A quick search of my archives reveals why: lemon cupcakes, lemondrops (the adult cocktail, thankyouvermuch), lemon roasted just-about-anything, vinaigrettes, sparking sodas, my list goes on. Swap the lemon for a pomelo or blood orange and I’ll keep going. I can’t stop. The following ideas and recipes are ways we love to use citrus at home. And like I mentioned before, there are no recipes, and I hope that’s ok with you. Consider these images as starting points for future kitchen excursions. It’s January, we should all take it easy for just a little while longer, don’t ya think?

Mini Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Yes, I am starting with dessert first. Begin with lemon or vanilla cupcakes, scoop out a tiny bit of the center, pipe in lemon curd and top with Italian meringue. Torch the top ever so slightly. Devour like a madman. Oops, that was me, sorry.

 Raw Vegetable Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

You can feel the crunch now, can’t you? Raw, crisp veggies and a handful of garbanzo beans drizzled with  a vinaigrette made with lemon juice, champagne vinegar, shallots, olive oil, Dijon mustard, a teensy amount of grated lemon peel, a pinch of sugar. It could not be easier. And you know how I feel about pre-made dressings and vinaigrette. Why would you when this is just so easy? Bonus points: you can use this as a dip and on sandwiches and subs.

Lemon Meringue Cake

Hey, this looks familiar, don’t it? That’s right. A buttercake is layered with lemon curd, once again topped with meringue and torched. It was as delicious as it was pretty.

Pink Lemonade

Pink lemonade is your standard lemonade with a splash of cranberry juice for color. It’s how it gets its pink. I’m all for it, but I like to add a small amount of grapefruit juice for tartness and – in the tiniest amount possible – a pinch of sea salt. Too much ruins it, just a tiny bit adds some depth. You must have plenty of ice. Must.

 Oven Roasted Trout

Sliced lemon wedges, sprigs of thyme, sea salt, whole trout. Dinner is served. And as a whole fish kind of guy it’s moments like this when I value a really great relationship with a fishmonger. Although I’m no stranger to getting out there and catching it myself. Lemon and fish is a natural combination but you know what’s a better combo? This dish and my mouth.

Lemon Roasted Chicken

Oh, you beautiful bird, you. The stuff simple and easy dinners are made of. We always roast our chicken with slices of lemon (with larger halved lemons inside the cavity), shallots, salt, pepper, and just about any kind of fresh herb you have on hand. You can make it even better by making a gravy from the lemony pan drippings. And you see those potatoes? They’re roasted red potatoes topped with ricotta and lemon zest. Roast first, give ‘em a squeeze to break them open, top to your heart’s content. Literally a perfect dinner.

Candied Citrus Cake

Something that couldn’t be easier but with fantastic citrus flare. A traditional butter cake with candied lemon, orange, and blood orange slices with spoonfuls of syrup.  To candy the citrus slices, boil and rinse three times to reduce bitterness then simmer in a mixture of equal parts sugar and water for 45 minutes, until translucent. Arrange cooled slices on top of the cake and spoon over the syrup.

Lemon Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream

What? Yet another sweet treat? That’s right. Because we were inspired by citrus sweets while at the studio we didn’t mind going into sugar-overload. Just use common sense, please. These cupcakes use plenty of lemon juice and zest in the cake, with just a very simple vanilla buttercream on top along with some happy sprinkles. Bright and happy, just like I like my desserts.

 How do you like to use citrus?

Many thanks to my gorgeous better half who styles with such grace and flair. Thanks to Found Vintage Rentals for the amazing furniture props. I live for these creative playdates! All photos and prop styling by yours truly.