Kale Pesto Grilled Cheese

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These ooey, gooey grilled cheese sandwiches use four (count ’em, four) types of cheese: shredded mozzarella, shredded provolone, fresh mozzarella, and Parmesan. They’re sandwiched between toasted brioche with a vibrant basil-kale pesto. Embrace your inner kid and dunk the sandwiches in the warm marinara sauce (that’s exactly what we did).

Adapted from Plated.com
2019

Serves 2

Ingredients:
olive oil
2 ounces curly kale
1/4 ounce basil
1 lemon
4 ounces fresh mozzarella
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
One 8-ounce jar marinara sauce
4 slices brioche
1 ounce shredded mozzarella
1 ounce shredded provolone cheese blend

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425ºF.

Rinse all produce. Roughly chop or tear kale leaves, discarding long stems. Pick basil leaves, discarding stems. Halve lemon. Thinly slice mozzarella. Mince garlic.

To make kale pesto, add to a blender or food processor, combine pine nuts, kale, basil, half of garlic, 1 tablespoon water, and 2 tablespoons olive oil; pulse until smooth. Stir in half of Parmesan, 1 squeeze lemon juice, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper as desired. Set kale pesto aside.

Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a medium high-sided pan over medium heat. When oil is shimmering, add oregano and remaining garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Increase heat to medium high and add marinara sauce. Simmer, stirring, until warmed through and flavors have melded, 6-8 minutes more. Season with ½ teaspoon salt and pepper as desired. Remove pan from heat; cover and set aside until ready to use.

While marinara simmers, drizzle olive oil over 1 side of bread slices. Arrange oil-side up on a baking sheet and bake until beginning to crisp, 2 minutes, then flip. Spread kale pesto over plain sides of bread slices and top with shredded mozzarella and provolone, then remaining Parmesan, then mozzarella slices. Return to oven and bake until cheeses are melted and bread is golden, 3-4 minutes more.

Close sandwiches, pressing to adhere. Return to oven and bake until tops of sandwiches are golden, 1-2 minutes.

To serve, cut kale pesto grilled cheese in half on a diagonal. Divide marinara sauce between small bowls and serve with sandwiches for dipping.

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Grilled Mozzarella and Red Peppers Sandwich

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This sandwich screams FRESHNESS, as it is made with fresh mozzarella, fresh basil pesto and oven roasted red sweet bell peppers drizzled balsamic vinegar. With layers of flavor, it is the perfect sandwich for a Meatless Monday lunch option.

Serves 2

Ingredients:
2 red sweet bell pepper
1 Fresh Mozzarella Cheese Ball
2 slices of Provolone Cheese
4 slices Italian bread
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Vegetable cooking spray

For the Fresh Basil Pesto:
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
3 garlic cloves, minced
salt, more to taste
freshly ground black pepper, more to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 500° F .

Place the red bell peppers on a rimmed backing sheet. Lightly coat the peppers with the vegetable spray and place in the heated oven. Allow the peppers to roast for about 15 to 20 minutes. Rotate it at about the 7 minute mark and remove when all sides have charred black. Remove the peppers from the oven and allow them to cool. When the red peppers have cooled to the touch, remove the charred skin by using a clean tea towel. Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds, then julienne the roasted peppers.

Using a sharp knife, thinly slice six pieces of cheese from the mozzarella ball.

To prepare the pesto spread: Pulse basil and pine nuts in a food processor: Place the basil leaves and pine nuts into the bowl of a food processor and pulse a several times.

Add the garlic and Parmesan or Romano cheese and pulse several times more. Scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula.

While the food processor is running, slowly add the olive oil in a steady small stream. Adding the olive oil slowly, while the processor is running, will help it emulsify and help keep the olive oil from separating. Occasionally stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor. Stir in salt and freshly ground black pepper, add more to taste. cover and set aside.

Set the oven to 450 ° F.

Take 4 slices of Italian bread and spread the pesto on one side.

Lay a slice of provolone ontop of the pesto.

Take one slice and with the pesto side up and layer with the julienned red pepper first.

Use a brush and lightly coat the top of the red pepper with 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar.

Add three slices of Mozzarella cheese ontop of the peppers and close the with another bread slice. The pesto side should be touching the mozzarella. Repeat the process for the second sandwich.

Heat a cast iron skillet on medium high. Melt the butter until it is lightly foaming. Gently place the sandwiches in the melted butter.

Fry the sandwiches for about 2 to 4 minutes on medium heat, as it the bread become golden brown. Using spatula flip the sandwich over until the bread is crispy and golden brown, for another 2 to 3 minutes.

Continue to cook the sandwiches in the oven, by placing the skillet sandwich in the oven for about 5 to 7 minutes. Cook until the cheese is melted and slightly oozing from the bread. Remove from the oven.

Using a spatula, place a sandwich on a plate and serve immediately.

 

 

Cook’s Note:
Basil pesto oxidizes (darkens) when exposed to air, so to store, cover tightly with plastic wrap making sure the plastic is touching the top of the pesto and not allowing the pesto to have contact with air, making a complete seal. The pesto will stay greener longer that way. The pest will keep for about 2 weeks.


Crab Mac ‘N Cheese

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Wow!

I cannot believe it.  This is my 500th Post on this Blog and I cannot think of a better way to celebrate with my favorite comfort food.

I absolutely love Macaroni and Cheese and this is a very special dish meant for any occasion. The homemade bechamel sauce compliments the sweet jumbo lump crab meat perfectly. Serve it as a side dish or as an entree it’s a fantastic and budget friendly way to serve crab meat to a crowd with style.

Serves 6

Ingredients
1 1/2 pounds conchigliette pasta*
1/4 cup butter
1 shallot, finely diced
3 cloves garlic,finely minced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup shredded white Cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup shredded Asiago cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound jumbo lump crab meat, picked over
Chopped fresh parsley or crushed dried parsley, for garnish

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375ºF. In a large pot of boiling water, cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain and return to pot.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Add shallot and garlic and cook until fragrant and softened,for 3 minutes. Add flour and whisk until combined and golden, for about 1 minute. Add milk and season with salt and pepper. Simmer 2 minutes, until sauce is thickened and smooth.

Stir in 1/2 white cheddar, the mozzarella and Asiago until slightly melted, then remove from heat.

Add the bechamel sauce and crab meat to pot with cooked pasta and gently stir with a wooden spoon until completely combined.

Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheddar and 1/4 cup Parmesan and bake until bubbly, for 20 minutes.

Garnish the dish with parsley and serve immediately.

*Cooks Notes:
Conchiglie [koŋˈkiʎʎe], is a type of pasta in which the name is derived from the Italian word “conchiglia” .Commonly known as “shells” or “seashells” , this pasta is usually sold in the plain durum wheat variety, and also in colored varieties which use natural pigments, such as tomato extract, squid ink or spinach extract. The shell shape of the pasta allows the sauce to adhere to it. A miniature variety called conchigliette is also available.

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