gruyere grilled cheese with apple salad

What happened to fall? I was just starting to enjoy the crisp fall leaves, wearing sweaters in the appropriate season, and eating yummy cinnamony things. Instead I get a hurricane. I’m from the Midwest so hurricanes don’t make sense to me. Several days of preparation, waiting, anticipating, and praying that everything is okay and this thing is moving a whopping 10 miles an hour, TEN!! I had cabin fever before it even passed North Carolina! To add to my anxiety, we’re in what is called a Category 4 flood zone and what is now a voluntary evacuation zone. So, we’re just going to hope there aren’t any category 4 floods. On a positive note, I’ve learned some new scientific terms, like “storm surge,” and I have even memorized the time for high tide in our neighborhood as if it were Maghrib during Ramadan.

While I’m holed up, and hoping we emerge from this unscathed, I hope you have a chance to enjoy some lovely fall weather. Here’s a delicious sandwich and salad to keep you company!

Gruyere Grilled Cheese with Apple Salad

4 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
¾ cup ¼” thick sliced shallots
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ¼” thick slices country-style white bread (I used Martin’s 100% Whole Wheat Potato Bread)
8 oz Gruyere, sliced ⅛” thick
2 cups arugula
½ apple cut into ¼” slices
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat 2 tbsp. butter in a small saucepan over high heat. When butter begins to foam, add shallots and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Cook stirring continuously with a wooden spoon or spatula, until shallots begin to soften and caramelize, 4-5 minutes; remove from heat and set aside.

Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Working in 2 batches, add 1 tbsp of butter and swirl in pan to melt butter and coat bottom of pan. Add 2 slices of bread to pan and cook until golden brown and crisp on the bottom, 2-3 minutes. Transfer bread, toasted side down to a rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with remaining butter and bread slices. Divide cheese evenly among bread slices; top cheese with reserved shallots.

Place baking sheet in oven and bake until cheese is melted, 7-8 minutes.

Combine Arugula, apple slices, lemon juice and oil in a large bowl; toss to coat and evenly distribute. Season salad to taste with salt and pepper.

Press 2 pieces of bread together, and cut on a diagonal and place on a plate. Divide salad between plates.

Cooking Notes: I made this twice, once following the directions as listed and baking the cheese, and also by making it the traditional way – melting the cheese between slices of bread while on the skillet. Both techniques offered a great sandwich and I found no noticeable difference between the two. The second version was just simpler. You could probably also cut down on the amount of butter by just buttering 1 side of each slice of bread – but really, this sandwich is not pretending to be healthy. Do not omit the shallots, they are absolutely amazing in this grilled cheese. I’m not sure how I’ve made grilled cheese sandwiches without shallots before.

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Avocado Salad

I have to apologize for the lack of posts. I honestly haven’t been cooking much lately. I seem to have slipped into some bout of cookers-block, nothing sounds appetizing. I should probably also mention that I’ve been a bit under the weather – and getting back to normal seems so far away.

Anyways, you’re not here to attend my pity-party, back to food. My palate has become a bit… bland. I’ve mostly been eating chickpeas, chicken breast, and salmon. However, one thing that I always love eating is avocado. My father-in-law whipped up some of this avocado dressing/salad and it has become a favorite around here. Think of it as a dressed-up-un-mashed guacamole. We’ve used it as a topping on salmon burgers, broiled salmon and hamburgers. It’s hard not to eat straight from the bowl!

Avocado Salad:
1 ripe avocado, peeled, seeded and cubed
1 tomato cubed
1 clove garlic minced
1 tbsp olive oil
dash of pepper
1/8-1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
5-6 chopped olives
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp basil or cilantro
1/4 tsp dijon mustard
Mix all ingredients together & serve.

Chickpea Salad

This has become a surprising winner at our dinner table. I have always loved chickpeas, I believe it is the South Asian in me. I could eat them with just a little salt, pepper and olive oil. What’s surprising though is how much Martin has started enjoying them. Never a fan of chickpeas this recipe has won him over. It almost seems ridiculous to post such a simple recipe, but sometimes you just need a simple and satisfying side dish.

This oh so tweakable recipe has quickly become a regular side at our house. So far, this is our favorite combination:

Serving Size: 2

Recipe:

1 15 ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed, drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 teaspoons olive oil
1 small garlic clove, pressed
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt
dash of cumin

Recipe notes: This is a super adaptable recipe. I imagine feta/cilantro instead of parm and basil would taste pretty awesome too. Have fun with this recipe!

Salmon with arugula, tomato, and caper salad

I have a confession. I ate a samosa! The first day of Ramadan! Who knew I would break so quickly? But, it’s not entirely my fault. I did not personally fry the samosa. It was not consumed in my home. I am not to blame! Several friends came together and decided to break fast on the first day of Ramadan. It was lovely, the food was wonderful, and the company even better. I’m pretty sure I see friends more frequently during Ramadan than any other time of year. The only drawback is that I eat too much. Ordinarily this isn’t a problem. I don’t mind eating well once in a while. But this year has been different. The usual heavy Ramadan cuisine hasn’t been working for me. I’ve been craving the crisp crunch of vegetables, and the sweetness of fruit. I can’t think of anything else I’d rather eat than an eggplant!

Which brings me to this lovely, refreshing and rather light salmon dish. Its nothing fancy, but it was so nice and light and didn’t give me that sluggish weighed down feeling.

Recipe:

Serving Size: 4

1 large plum tomatoes chopped
3/4 cup (lightly packed) chopped fresh arugula, basil, or italian parsley
1/2 cup olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon drained capers

4 6-ounce salmon fillets
olive oil
lemon wedges

Combine first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Preheat broiler. Brush both sides of salmon with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange salmon skin side down on broiler tray. Broil without turning until just opaque in center, about 4 minutes. Transfer salmon to plates. Spoon salad onto plate. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve.

Recipe Notes: Thanks Bonappétit cookbook! I ended up making more salad and 2 pieces of salmon. I wasn’t sure what I would do with all the arugula I purchased so we had a generous salad accompanying our salmon. I also did not use shallots. I accidentally broiled the fish for 5 minutes, and it was just slightly overcooked. Follow the recipe, 4 minutes is perfect!

Mango Avocado Quinoa Salad

A few days ago Martin was browsing one of our favorite local food blogs, CT Bites, when he came across a recipe for a mango avocado and quinoa salad. While everyone sings the praises of quinoa (having all 9 essential amino acids and that it is a “complete protein”) no one tells you that it tastes like boiled vegetables. You’re welcome, I’m glad I was able to spare you the surprise. I, personally, (if you haven’t already gathered) don’t particularly care for the taste of it. But as a sensible adult, I force myself to eat things I don’t enjoy because I know it’s good for me. sigh. Martin, however, apparently likes- no, enjoys the taste of qunioa. So when he suggested we (actually, he did all the work) make a salad, I couldn’t say no. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Mango? and avocado? together? in a salad? without lettuce? But we pressed on and in the end we had a surprisingly refreshing salad. I couldn’t taste the qunioa and that made me happy, but all the flavors worked well together. And though I was prepared to be overwhelmed with all of the flavors, I wasn’t. This somehow worked!

Gut Reaction: redo, but in a smaller quantity or to share with others. Around our 4th bowl of salad we were ready for something new.

Recipe Notes:

The recipe can be found here. We followed the recipe pretty closely, the only difference was we used balsamic vinegar instead of a raspberry balsamic vinegar.