Dinner Tonight: 30 minute entrees
For Lenten fix, cheese takes a starring role
Classic grilled sandwich satisfies appetites, meatless diets
Meatless meal: In looking for a Lenten sandwich as we reach the home stretch, this grilled cheese delivers. (Alex Garcia/Chicago Tribune)
Not having grown up in a town where the sandwich was part of Lenten tradition, I've loved its juicy combo of sweet peppers and creamy eggs since downing one at a suburban Chicago Italian grocery store.
The question, though, quickly became clear: How to embellish the egg and pepper to make it worth Dinner Tonight? Sure, you could make it a fried egg instead of scrambled. Roast red peppers for a deeper flavor. Embellish the eggs with all kinds of savories, chopped olives, a zesty salsa, fresh herbs. But none of these ideas really built that much on the original.
That realization ultimately led me in an entirely different direction. Perusing cookbooks for ideas, I hit on this grilled cheese from "The Epicurious Cookbook." Now grilled cheese, there's a sandwich that welcomes invention. This one is nearly as simple as the egg and pepper — just four ingredients (seasonings and oil don't count), yet each works to elevate the classic — with the play of sweet onion jam against the slight funk of the creamy Italian taleggio establishing the sandwich as a winner.
Egg and pepper, maybe we'll try again next year.
Grilled cheese with onion jam and taleggio
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 8 minutes
Note: Adapted from "The Epicurious Cookbook" (Clarkson Potter, $27.99), by Tanya Steel and the editors of Epicurious. For the taleggio, you can sub another semisoft, creamy cheese.
4 slices rustic Italian bread, 1/2-inch thick, from the middle of a 9- or 10-inch round
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons onion or fig jam
12 to 14 ounces taleggio, chilled, sliced
4 ounces escarole leaves, center ribs discarded, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces, about 2 cups
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1. Brush one side of the four bread slices with oil; arrange oiled side down on a work surface. Spread jam on 2 slices; divide the cheese between the remaining 2 slices. Mound the escarole on top of the cheese; season with salt and pepper. Assemble the sandwiches.
2. Heat a large dry skillet (not nonstick) over medium-low heat until hot. Add the sandwiches; cook, turning once and pressing with a spatula to compact, until the bread is golden brown and the cheese melts, 6-8 minutes total.
Per serving: 851 calories, 58 g fat, 31 g saturated fat, 170 mg cholesterol, 41 g carbohydrates, 41 g protein, 1,724 mg sodium, 3 g fiber.