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Santa Barbara, CA, United States
I enjoy creating original wine-pairing recipes that are healthful and delicious. I work for Touring & Tasting a Santa Barbara based wine club and national magazine as Food Editor. However, I am not paid for this blog and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own. I received my Personal Chef Skills Competency Award from the SBCC's School Of Culinary Arts. In 2012, I started Inside Wine - Santa Barbara with pal Lila Brown which features wine tastings with winery owners and winemakers. I also serve on the Board of the Santa Barbara Culinary Arts group, which had Julia Child as one of the founding members and funds scholarships for SBCC culinary students in her name.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Gooey, delicious grilled cheese sandwiches

We stopped for lunch at our favorite McPhee's Grill in Templeton (see here and here, ) on the way north for their grilled artichoke, fish tostada, a glass of Jim Clendenen's Pinot Gris and--first time trying it--the amazing Grilled Three Cheese and Mushroom Sandwich. Fabulous. Grilled cheese made with rustic bread and artisan cheese is all over California menus and filling new cookbooks like Laura Werlin's Grilled Cheese Please. Besides using great ingredients (not the Velveta cheese and white bread we were served in school lunches!), I've found the secret is twofold: first, use at least two types of cheese--the first a firmer melting cheese like cheddar or Gruyere and the other a soft cheese like chevre (or in this case sour cream) and second, brush the melted butter on the outside of the bread before grilling it instead of grilling in a pool of melted butter. The following is what I had for dinner, along with steamed vegetables and a glass of 2008 Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet. The grilled cheese was crispy on the outside, satisyingly bready and chewy, and filled with flavorful gooey deliciousness!
Ingredients for one sandwich
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 slice rustic bread, cut in half
Approximately 1 oz. of sharp cheddar, sliced very thin
1 Tbsp. sour cream
1/2 small tomato, sliced thin
1 Tbsp. roasted green chili salsa
Brush one side of each piece of bread with butter using a pastry brush and taking care to cover the entire side. Place butter side down. Place cheese slices on top of each slice, tearing to fit so the entire bread is covered. Carefully spread the sour cream over one half of bread, over the cheese. Lay the tomato slices on the other side, salt lightly, then spoon the salsa on top. Quickly turn the sour cream half on top of the other half, holding the cheese in place with your fingers as you turn the bread. Heat a skillet over medium low (a cast iron skillet works great) and place the sandwich in it. Cover with a lid. Cook slowly so the inside melts, about 3 minutes on each side.
Another comfort food from the 60's, updated to be made from scratch:
6 4 oz. ramekins
3 Tbsp. melted butter
1/2 cup chopped fresh pineapple
6 heaping Tbsp. loosely packed brown sugar
Cake Batter:
1 1/3 cup cake flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
2/3 cup milk
1/4 cup melted butter
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
optional whip cream
optional ice cream
Preheat oven to 325. Divide the melted butter between the ramekins and use a pastry brush to spread the butter across the bottom and sides. Divide the pineapple between the ramekins, sprinkle each with a heaping tablespoon of brown sugar, then sprinkle each with cinnamon.
In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar and baking powder. Add the milk, butter, egg and vanilla and beat with an electric mixer set on low for a minute. Scrape down the sides, then beat with electric mixer on medium for another minute. Divide the batter between the ramekins, pouring over the pineapple mixture. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and place ramekins on a baking rack to cool for a couple of minutes, then use a sharp knife to cut around the sides of each cake to loosen them. Upend onto your serving dishes and serve warm. Garnish with mint, whipped cream or ice cream.

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