Grilled cheese sandwiches. The ultimate comfort food/cold weather food/can’t be bothered making a ‘proper dinner’ food. Let’s be honest. It’s anytime food. Not just for kids – we ‘grown-ups’ can eat them too. It’s perfectly acceptable grub – even for dinner – especially when jazzed up with nutritious extras. In this particular specimen you’ve got cannellini beans for fibre and protein, avocado for healthy fats as well as a kazillion other wellness-boosting nutrients and beetroot to cover your veg bases. Wait a minute, avocado counts as a veg too! Let’s just forget about the slab of cheese wedged in the middle, and the fact that the bread is lathered in butter. Because, hey a little fat never hurt no-one (given that it’s not the major component of the meal). There’s simply no point trying to omit them – you wouldn’t have a grilled cheese sandwich anymore would you?
I think many people would agree that the humble grilled cheese was one of the very first meals/snacks they learned to prepare reasonably well. Throughout primary school and early high my standard was ham+cheese (mild cheddar, of course)+tomato, toasted in the George Forman Grill for that nice ‘crinkle’ effect. When I became vegetarian it dropped an ingredient and simply became cheese+tomato. Gradually I ventured into the realm of slightly more adventurous combinations with the addition of tomato chutney, and then even later on spinach. Heaven forbid. Nowadays I’m of the opinion that almost anything will taste great in a ‘grilled cheese’, given that the bread and cheese are suited to the procedure, and the procedure itself is sound. Oh my.
How do you guarantee a foolproof grilled cheese? The first step is in selecting your bread. Sourdough or another similar rough-textured bread is preferable. If you must, bog-standard sandwich bread is acceptable. The older the better. Somehow the dryness/open texture results in an extremely satisfyingly crisp outer layer. The next involves butter, butter and more butter. Don’t run away screaming. Please. It is a grilled cheese after all. You should know what your getting yourself into. Buttering the outside layers of the bread just before toasting (it doesn’t need to be thickly, just be sure to cover all exposed surfaces) helps nudge the crisping process along and provides a pleasing golden colour (because we’re a little vain and aesthetics do matter with a grilled cheese). That golden-browness will get your stomach growling like nothing else.
Time (otherwise known here as patience) is the third and final trick to ensuring grilled cheese success, well at least in my book. This applies more so if you are using a frying pan over a sandwich press. You must wait for the bread to brown nicely on the first side, and for the cheese to show clear signs of wanting to melt before flipping the sarnie over. Don’t walk away – the heat needs close monitoring. Hands up if you’ve burnt the outside but failed to melt the cheese even a little. It’s depressing isn’t it? I find that a low to medium heat works best for me, however each stove will be slightly different. It also depends on the bread and fillings you use! Also, this isn’t like a pancake where excessive flipping leads to a loss in quality – turn as much as necessary until both sides are golden brown and the cheese is completely melted. If your cheese is refusing to melt, cut the sandwich in half and pop back in the frying pan for a minute or two to speed things up. The toasting process could take up to five minutes, however your patience will be rewarded. Promise.
Your teeth crunch through the crisp outer shell, sinking into the soft center. Melty, oozy mozzarella floods into your mouth, the creaminess heightened by the beans and avocado. Sweet beetroot and tart, zesty pickle cuts through all that richness. Need I say more? Go make yourself a grilled cheese. You know you want to.
Beetroot, Avocado & White Bean Grilled Cheese
Pickles of choice
40g cannellini beans, drained & roughly mashed along with plenty of salt and pepper
1/5 avocado, thinly sliced or mashed
Sliced canned beetroot – sufficient to cover bread in one layer
40g mozzarella (or other melty cheese), thinly sliced or grated
2 slices bread, preferably sourdough or at least 1 day old
Butter/margarine for spreading
Spread pickles over one side of bread. Smear with cannellini beans and then avocado (or top with a layer of slices). Now add an even layer of beetroot and finally the cheese. Pop the other slice of bread on top.
Warm your frying pan/skillet over a medium to low heat. Alternatively, follow the directions for your sandwich press. Butter the topside of the bread. It doesn’t need to be really thickly, just ensure that you reach all exposed surfaces. Place the buttered side down onto the frying pan and now butter the other exposed side. Cook for approximately 2 minutes on either side, flipping as necessary, or until both sides of the bread are golden brown and the cheese is melted. If your cheese is refusing to melt, cut the sandwich in half and pop back in the frying pan for a minute or two to speed things up.
Cut in half (if you haven’t already done so) and serve immediately, with some leafy greens if you’re feeling healthy!
Source: A Taste Without Waste original.