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Everything Cheddar Tomato Bacon Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Who doesn’t love a grilled cheese sandwich? And particularly one that elevates the pedestrian sandwich to sublime, oozing with cheeses, herbs, bacon and tomato. If that’s not enough to convince you, just wait till you crunch into the coating of parmesan cheese and “everything-bagel” seeds after crisping the sandwich in butter. After I saw this posted on Half Baked Harvest‘s Instagram page, I knew it was in my future. Bacon is not a staple in my house, but I bought it to make this sandwich, and have to confess, I’ve been enjoying bacon for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s an indulgence to be sure, but even if you make it only once a year, this sandwich is worth the calories.

I cooked the bacon a day ahead, to make things go more quickly when I prepared the sandwiches the next day. When you’re ready to get the sandwiches started, slice the tomatoes and salt them first, then let them rest on paper towels to drain off some of the water, so your sandwich doesn’t get soggy. Mix the cheeses with the herbs. I used a combination of sharp white cheddar and Havarti with dill.

Don’t add any salt to the cheese, since the “everything bagel” seasoning (bought at Trader Joe’s but you can make your own with the recipe below) is salty enough. Spread the butter on the outside bread slices, then sprinkle with the parmesan cheese (which also is plenty salty) and the “everything bagel” seeds.

Assemble the interior of the sandwich, placing the cheese, tomatoes and bacon inside,

Top with the second slice of bread and sauté in butter.

Flip the sandwiches over and cook until nicely browned on both sides. Use a little more butter or olive oil if needed. (This is definitely NOT a low calorie meal).

Then get some napkins ready to keep your hands clean, and enjoy one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches you’ll ever eat.

To really complete the meal, make yourself some tomato soup, the traditional accompaniment to grilled cheese sandwiches. And don’t forget to take a photo before you eat, as the bowl says.Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what Ciao Chow Linda is up to in the kitchen (and other places too) each day.

Everything Cheddar Tomato Bacon Grilled Cheese Sandwich
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 tomato, thinly sliced
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 4 slices sourdough bread
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup shredded Havarti cheese
  • ¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped chives
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • 2-4 tablespoons everything bagel spice (recipe below)
  • 2-4 slices cooked crispy bacon
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter or olive oil to cook the sandwiches
Instructions
  1. Arrange the tomatoes on a cutting board and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Let sit 15 minutes to draw out excess moisture.
  3. In a bowl, combine the cheddar, Havarti, basil, thyme, and chives.
  4. Brush the outside of each slice of bread with butter.
  5. Sprinkle the parmesan and everything spice over both buttered sides of the bread, pressing the spice mix gently into the bread to adhere.
  6. On the inside of half of the slices of bread, evenly layer half of the cheese mix, the tomatoes, bacon, and the remaining cheese. Add the top piece of bread.
  7. Heat 1-2 tablespoons butter or olive oil in large skillet over medium heat.
  8. Place the sandwiches in the skillet and cook until golden on each side, about 3-5 minutes per side.
  9. Everything Spice: In a small bowl, combine 3 tablespoons toasted white or black sesame seeds, 2 tablespoons poppy seeds, 2 teaspoons dried onion., 2 teaspoons dried garlic, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Keep stored in a cool, dry place.
 

Eggplant and Potato Crostata

My friend Lilli made this beautiful concoction recently, when the Italian chit-chat group convened at my house a few weeks ago. We generally serve both savory and sweet things at our weekly gatherings, and Lilli helped me by preparing this delicious eggplant and potato crostata. Lilli, who hails from Salerno, is one of my dearest friends, and a sensational cook. This recipe however, is from Giallo Zafferano, an Italian site that features so many wonderful recipes, but they’re all in Italian. I’ve translated the amounts from metric, for those of you in the U.S.  It would make a great appetizer if you’re having company, or even a main course, with a salad on the side. I hope you try it.

Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what’s cooking in Ciao Chow Linda’s kitchen each day (and to follow my trip through some beautiful European spots.)

Eggplant and Potato Crostata
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • one pastry shell, ready made or homemade
  • 1½ cups (400 grams)potatoes
  • 1¾ cups (350 grams) eggplant
  • 1 cup (100 grams) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups (200 grams) Parmesan cheese
  • salt, pepper,
  • one egg yolk (for brushing on top)
Instructions
  1. Slice the eggplants (not too thinly), and sprinkle with salt.
  2. Let them rest for 20 minutes.
  3. Rinse and dry the eggplants with paper towels, then cut in half.
  4. Fry the eggplant in oil, draining well on paper towels.
  5. Wash the potatoes well, and boil them for about 20 minutes, with their skins on.
  6. Test for doneness, and when they can be easily pierced with a fork, remove from the water and let them cool, then peel them.
  7. Chop the potatoes roughly.
  8. Cut the mozzarella into small pieces.
  9. Mix the eggs in a bowl with the salt, pepper and parmesan cheese.
  10. To the eggs add the potatoes, the mozzarella and the eggplant.
  11. Line a tart pan with the pastry, letting some hang over the edge.
  12. Fill the tart pan evenly with the eggplant and potato filling.
  13. Fold the edges of the pastry over the filling and brush with beaten egg yolk.
  14. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.
  15. Serve hot or at room temperature.
 

Rice, Salami and Cheese Casserole

Hide your bathroom scales if you decide to make this one – it’s loaded with cheese, salami and eggs, but it’s oh so worth it. Just make sure to invite a lot of people over. Even after serving it to my Italian chit-chat group (and there were 16 of us at the table that day), I still had enough left over to share with two different neighbors, and for my own dinner. The recipe comes from my friend Milena, who hails from La Spezia, and who is part of that Italian chit-chat group. You can make it without the meat if you choose, but the salami gives it a nice, spicy accent. I used a mixture of a basic Genoa-type salami, and one that was coated with black pepper. You could skip the salami and use cubed ham instead if you prefer.

Here is the pile of cheeses that went into it – mozzarella, pecorino and parmesan. Milena’s original recipe also called for cheddar cheese, but I don’t think it needs it, so I left it out.

You mix the rice, cheeses and salami with some beaten eggs and milk and press it into a casserole.

Then poke holes all around the casserole and pour in more of the eggs and milk mixture.

Sprinkle some bread crumbs and paprika on top and bake for about 45 minutes.

It’s hard not to keep eating it, but with bathing suit season right around the corner, I had to control myself.

But not for long. Guess what was mid-morning snack the next day?

Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what’s cooking in Ciao Chow Linda’s kitchen each day (and more)

Rice, Salami and Cheese Casserole
 
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 12-16 servings
Ingredients
  • 3 cups rice (I used arborio but long grain white rice is fine.)
  • 7 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter (8 tablespoons)
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ lb. diced Genoa salami
  • ½ lb. cubed or shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup grated cheese (I used a mixture of parmesan and pecorino)
  • 2 cups milk
Instructions
  1. Cook rice in water and salt.
  2. Add the butter and mix well.
  3. Add the cheeses and salami and mix well.
  4. Beat the eggs and milk, and add half to the cooked rice mixture.
  5. Put the rice mixture into a greased, ovenproof casserole. (mine was 9½ inches by 12 inches)
  6. With a fork, poke holes on the top and pour the rest of the milk-egg mixture over the rice.
  7. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and paprika.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees, covered for 45 minutes.
  9. Let it rest for five minutes before serving.

Cheese Making

I’ve rolled pasta, baked bread, canned fruits, jarred jams and fermented vegetables. I’ve fried cannoli, stretched strudel and brined turkeys. I’ve cleaned squid, octopus and even fed snails for a day to cleanse them before cooking. I’ve pounded lemon grass and ground spices for curry in Thailand, made macarons in Paris and caught cephalopods off the coast of Sardinia. But one of the things I’ve wanted to try, but hadn’t until last week was cheesemaking.

All that changed at the Farm Cooking School in Titusville, New Jersey, where I learned how to make four different kinds of cheese – mozzarella, ricotta, crème fraîche, and goat’s milk cheese. The class of about eight people gathered to learn from Ian Knauer, founder of the school, which I’ve written about in the past here.

I’m not going to describe the process in detail, although there is a recipe at the end, using one of the cheeses we made. But for those of you who live within the tri-state area of New York-Pennsylvania-New Jersey, I hope you will seek out this cooking school and take the class — or any one of the myriad they offer — from butchering to bouillabaisse. Ian and business partner Shelly Wiseman, both veterans of Gourmet magazine, hold classes mornings and night, and even offer week-long culinary vacations in the beautiful countryside around the Delaware River Valley.

The cheesemaking process is similar for most cheeses – bring the milk up to a certain temperature, add rennet, let it stand until curds form, and strain through cheesecloth. For mozzarella, the curds are stretched and pulled in hot water until they meld together into a ball shape.

Crème fraîche is made with heavy cream to which a mesophilic starter culture is added. Alternately,  simply add a tablespoon of purchased crème fraîche to a cup of heavy milk inside a sterilized glass jar, and heat it inside a pot filled with warm water. For goat’s cheese, you start with goat’s, not cow’s milk (naturally) raw or pasteurized — not always so easy to find.

But even if you don’t make your own cheese, you’ll want to try the recipe at the end of this post using good quality purchased cheese. Of course, nothing compares to freshly made, but still, the recipe can be adapted using store bought cheese.

None of the dishes we ate contained meat. (For strict vegetarians, you might think twice about eating cheese, since rennet, used in most cheeses, is an enzyme made using cow’s stomach.)

The lunch lineup included this delicious salad of kale, cooked beets and the goat cheese we made and crumbled on top.

We also roasted shishito peppers and served them with the mozzarella balls we pulled.

The lentils were cooked and mixed with the crème fraîche, then topped with sweet roasted carrots, dill and mint.Dessert was simple but wonderful – apples poached in white wine, sugar and cinnamon and served with  fresh ricotta.

If getting to The Farm Cooking School is impossible, here’s the next best thing — a cookbook Ian and Shelley have written that is due to be released in a few weeks. You’ll find many of the recipes and techniques here that you’d learn at the school, and you can pre-order it on Amazon.com.

Lentils with Spice-Roasted Carrots and Crème Fraîche
 
Author:
Serves: 8 to 16
Ingredients
  • 3 pounds carrots, peeled
  • 3 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 t. ground coriander
  • 1 t. smoked paprika
  • 1 t. ground cumin
  • 1 pound lentils, black or green
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 3 T. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup dill (or cilantro) and mint leaves
  • 1 cup crème fraîche
Instructions
  1. Toss the carrots with the oil, coriander, paprika, cumin, 1 t. salt and ½ t. pepper.
  2. Spread the carrots on a baking sheet and roast until tender, about 25 minutes.
  3. Reserve the carrots.
  4. While the carrots roast, cover the lentils in a saucepan by 2 inches of water.
  5. Stir in the onion, garlic and a generous pinch of salt and pepper.
  6. Boil the lentils until tender, about 20 minutes, then drain the lentils and toss with the oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Place the lentils on a serving platter and top with the carrots, herbs and crème fraîche.
  8. Serve.