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.


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.


Cornish Hens with Grapes in Vermouth

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(Poules Cornish aux Raisins au Vermouth)

Traditionally, this classic French dish is made with tender  poussins. Poussin is a butcher’s term for a young chicken, less than 28 days old at slaughter and usually weighing under a pound. In the United States, poussin is an alternative name for a small-sized cross-breed chicken called Rock Cornish game hen, developed in the late 1950s, which is twice as old and twice as large as the typical French  poussin.

The aromatic herbs and the grapes combine to flavor the vermouth, which makes a beautiful sauce that accompanies these tiny birds.

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients:
Four 1-pound oven ready Cornish hens
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for basting
2 small lemons, cut in halves
2 shallots, chopped
2 whole cloves garlic, lightly crushed
4 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
1/2 pound seedless sweet white  grapes
1/2 cup dry vermouth
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 cup heavy cream
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
2 Tablespoons pine nuts

Directions:
Preheat the oven at 375°F.

Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and bake , stirring occasionally, until golden-brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Increase the oven temperature to 400°F.

Wash and dry the hens. Spread 1 1/2 tablespoons the softened butter all over the hens. Add the remaining butter to a small bowl and stir in the shallot,garlic, parsley, thyme,tarragon and chives.

Place a quarter of the shallot mixture and 1/2 of one lemon into the cavity of each hen. Using kitchen twine, truss the hens up and place them in a shallow roasting pan. Add about 1/4 cup of water to pan. Roast the hens, basting often with butter , for 45 to 55 minutes , or until the juices run clear when thickest part of chicken is pierced and temperature on instant read thermometer reads 180°F. Transfer to warmed serving platter, cover and keep warm.

Skim off most of the fat from the pan. Add the grapes and vermouth. Place the pan over low heat for a minutes to warm the grapes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the grapes and sprinkle them around the hens. Stir the cornstarch into the cream. Add the pan juices. Cook over gentle heat for a few minutes, stirring until sauce thickens. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed.

Pour the sauce around the hens. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and garnish with chopped parsley and serve.

Cook’s Notes:
This dish serves 4 if the hens are left intact. To serve a party of 6, simply split the hens in half and serve with the sauce and grapes, accordingly

In place of parsley and tarragon, other herbs such as chervil, sage or oregano. For another variation, sliced peaches or apricots, diced zucchini , asparagus or peas.

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