A gourmet, lacto-vegetarian grilled cheese sandwich
Disclaimer: I am not a hardcore vegetarian or anything like one so take any definitions I may push out here with that rather flexible understanding. Life’s messy. Good food tends to be also.
Creeping up on the end of 2019 I decided to essentially cut animal products out of my diet. Mostly due to some studies suggesting that such a diet would act in an anti-inflammatory way. I’m getting old, the arthritis in my thumbs and knees especially, has limited my quality of life enough that ending a lifelong carnivorous diet didn’t seem quite so impossible.
There’s also the issue of factory farming. I find the treatment of animals on these farms to be more than a little amoral. Not to mention what the practice is doing to the earth we all share. At heart I’m a treehugger and always have been.
I don’t have any animosity towards hunters or fishermen (I grew up in that world and very much enjoyed both pursuits for most of my life). It was never about killing for me. It was much more of an excuse to be in nature back when I thought I needed an excuse. Today I struggle with justifying either activity on a planet that’s in the middle of a mostly human caused great extinction event. When we know better, we should do better. That’s my outlook on life. It’s not a judgement of anyone else. I have dominion only over my life and the decisions I choose to make. But enough of my politics.
Over time I’ve relaxed a bit on some of the animal products restrictions (dairy and eggs especially) . I’ve even eaten a small amount of both fish and meat in the last couple of months. It’s a very rare thing though. And surprisingly, I don’t miss them at all. The world of the vegetarian offers so much more than I’d ever dreamed. It’s just a matter of experimentation.
I present to you today what I consider to be the best grilled cheese sandwich I’ve ever eaten. It will likely remain at this lofty place in my repertoire until the next time I make one and try something different.
The ingredient list:
Your favorite cheese. Locally sourced from a family farm if at all possible. When you can get it, there’s really nothing to compare. I used a slice of good sharp cheddar and some triple sharp cheddar mix from Kraft. I live in the Adirondack Mountains of NY. There are no farms around here so I have to use what’s available during this pandemic, probable factory farmed stuff notwithstanding. It’s a bit of a sin but I’m trying to support my local grocery store and minimize travel as much as possible.
Gulden’s Spicy Brown Mustard
Unsalted Butter — Again preferably locally sourced. Mine is a store brand but I imagine a gourmet brand like Kerry’s would be even better. Maybe I’ll try it next time.
Fresh Baby Spinach
Sliced grape tomatoes — I imagine there are several species of heirloom tomatoes that would be significantly better here but again, Adirondack Mountains in mid-April.
Sliced hot pepper rings from a jar. I use a store brand. Fresh out of the garden would be better but I do like the zing from the vinegar in the jar.
Sun-dried tomatoes — I use California Sun-Dry brand Julienne Cut with Herbs. They come packed in olive oil in an 8.5 oz jar. I literally use them in almost all my cooking. My local grocery store is the first and only place I’ve ever found them outside of Amazon. I buy them here all the time now.
A good whole grain bread. I like a 12-grain or something like an Oat-Nut bread when it’s available but the sky’s the limit here. Use whatever you like or maybe even make your own.
Assembling the sandwich:
Butter only the outside of each slice of bread. I usually do it by melting the butter first in a cast iron pan. Place a slice in the pan and move it around to make sure there’s good coverage on the slice. Repeat for the second slice.
I like to chop the vegetables up into very small pieces and place them between the slices of cheese so that when the cheese melts it holds them all in. I’m also fairly generous with the mustard.
Cook on low heat in a covered pan. Check frequently to avoid burning.
Serve hot. I like to enjoy it with a steaming cup of ginger-turmeric herbal tea.
And there you have it: The ultimate Pandemic Grilled Cheese Sandwich. At this point you’re probably thinking I’ve got way too much time on my hands. You may be right, but at least I’m eating good food.
Thanks for joining me on this gustatorial adventure.