Strawberry Balsamic Grilled Cheese Sandwich

A great way to take advantage of fresh, local strawberries, this strawberry balsamic grilled cheese sandwich is an updated childhood classic meant for grownups. Don’t worry, it’s still wonderful comfort food!

I saw a similar recipe on social media and decided I had to try it.  They used blackberries, but I figured strawberries would work just as well, and I had just a few local summer strawberries left (since the season was delayed by wet weather).  The original post I saw didn’t specify what cheese to use.  The internet suggested a strawberry balsamic brie sandwich, but I didn’t have brie either.  So, I used smoked gouda instead. The gooey, melty, smoky gouda, the tart vinegar, and the sweet strawberries combine for a salty-sweet-tangy burst of flavor. Plus, some crunch from the grilled bread.

You can use the gouda, or brie, or probably any mild cheese that melts well for this. If you don’t have strawberries, use blackberries instead.  I made this with rye bread, but any crusty bread would work well. Ciabatta would likely be great (it makes wonderful grilled cheese sandwiches), because it absorbs the oil’s flavor and turns a beautiful golden brown without getting greasy.

There are lots of different opinions on how to grill cheese sandwiches (or toast them if you are in the UK).  Some butter the bread, others slather on mayonnaise (no  no no).  I prefer to just cook them in a mixture of butter and oil.  The oil has a higher smoking point than butter does (so it’s less likely to burn).  The butter adds extra flavor.




Strawberry Balsamic Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 6 minutes

Total Time: 11 minutes

Category: sandwich

Cuisine: American

one

Strawberry Balsamic Grilled Cheese Sandwich

An old classic American sandwich with a new, updated twist. This is not kid stuff, this sandwich appeals to grownups, while keeping the best part of "comfort food."

Ingredients

  • 3-4 strawberries, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons oil (you can use neutral oil or olive oil)
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 2 slices crusty bread
  • 3-4 slices smoked gouda, brie, or other mild cheese

Instructions

  1. Put the sliced strawberries and the balsamic vinegar in a small bowl or ramekin. Stir to mix until the strawberries are coated.
  2. Heat the oil and butter in a small frying pan on low-medium heat.
  3. Once the oil/butter mixture is hot, build your sandwich - bread, then the cheese, then the strawberry mixture, then the second slice.
  4. Add the sandwich to the pan and cook for a two or three minutes. Turn and cook on the other side for another two or three minutes.

Strawberry Balsamic Grilled Cheese Sandwich Substitutions and Variations

  • use blackberries or raspberries instead of strawberries (blueberries might work too, but they’re harder to cut up)
  • try brie, goat cheese, or Monterey Jack instead of gouda
  • experiment with crusty breads such as ciabatta or a hearth loaf
  • toss in a few fresh basil leaves
  • add some black pepper to the strawberry/balsamic mixture

More Sandwich Recipes

Three Cheese Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Chicken Caprese Salad Panini Sandwich

Bacon Spinach Tomato Aioli Sandwich Recipe

Vegetarian Eggplant Sandwich for One Person




Linguine with Garlic and Olive Oil

This recipe makes me smile whenever I make it.  You may wonder what’s so funny about linguine with garlic and olive oil?  Nothing really, it just reminds me of a friend.

This friend does not cook. At all.  I don’t think she’s ever used her oven.  I was at her house one day and I was hungry. Nobody else wanted anything, so I started poking around in her fridge and cupboards (with permission).

I found some dried pasta, bouillon cubes, some olive oil, and a can of parmesan cheese. So, I made the “shelf stable” version of this recipe.  They all looked at me as if I had walked on water or parted the seas!

It is, of course, much better if you have higher quality ingredients at hand.  Here at home, I used fresh linguine, homemade chicken broth, and freshly grated parmesan cheese, along with high quality olive oil.

You can do it that way, the shelf stable way, or somewhere in-between.  I won’t judge.

 


Linguine with Garlic and Olive Oil

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Category: entree

Cuisine: Italian

one serving

Linguine with Garlic and Olive Oil

A simple, weeknight dinner you can make even if your cupboards are nearly bare! It can be fancy (fresh pasta), or simple and basic (shelf stable ingredients). Great for those, what the heck do I eat for dinner nights. A lot of flavor without a lot of effort.

Ingredients

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2T olive oil
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 lb. linguine or spaghetti
  • 1/3 cup chicken stock
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Add the oil to a small frying pan. Put the garlic in the pan and cook over medium heat. until it turns slightly golden. Don't burn it! Stir it every once in a while, then turn off the heat and set it aside.
  2. Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the salt.
  3. If you are using dried pasta, add it, then stir it (to keep it from sticking).
  4. Cook for 5-8 minutes until it's al dente (soft, but not mushy).
  5. If you have fresh pasta, add it, stir, and watch carefully. The pasta is cooked when the water returns to a boil (a minute or two).
  6. Drain the pasta and put it back in the pot.
  7. Add the chicken broth and turn the heat back on to medium. Let the pasta/broth mixture simmer for a few minutes until most of the broth is absorbed.
  8. Take the garlic/oil mixture you set aside and add that to the pasta pot. Using a spoon and a fork, toss the whole thing together, like a salad.
  9. Remove to a plate and serve, topped with black pepper and grated cheese.

Substitutions and Variations for Linguine with Garlic and Olive Oil

  • Make it more substantial with some cooked chicken or cooked shrimp
  • Top it with some red pepper flakes
  • Add a bit of lemon zest
  • Use some anchovies (if you like them)
  • Top with freshly toasted breadcrumbs




 

More Pasta Recipes

Pasta with Olives Tomatoes and Capers or Puttanesca

Summer Pasta with Green Olives and Feta Cheese

Spaghetti with Spinach and Lemon Cream Sauce

Pistachio Pesto Pasta Recipe

White Pizza Recipe Without Ricotta

The usual standard for white pizza is to use ricotta cheese. While I do like ricotta (heck I like nearly every cheese), I don’t usually have it in my fridge.  So, I switched cheeses and used mozzarella instead.  The nice thing about this recipe (or nearly any pizza recipe) it’s flexible and you can change it to suit your tastes or whatever ingredients you have at hand.

In this case, I used caramelized onions (because I always have onions), sun dried tomatoes (because I still have that huge jar to use up), and some fresh basil.

My original plan was to make the dough myself, but I was tired so I bought pre-made dough at the store. If you have more time and energy, smitten kitchen has a great pizza dough recipe for one.




Once the dough is ready (or bought), all you have to do is cook the onions, soak the tomatoes, and cut up the cheese. If you’re really pressed for time (or feeling lazy) use the pre-shredded mozzarella.  I recommend you get the fresh if possible though; it tastes much better.

White Pizza Recipe Without Ricotta

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Category: entree

Cuisine: Italian

one serving

White Pizza Recipe Without Ricotta

This personal white pizza is made without ricotta, but does have fresh mozzarella, caramelized onions, and sun-dried tomatoes.

Ingredients

  • Store bought or homemade pizza dough
  • 4-5 sun dried tomatoes
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/4 C chopped onions
  • 1/4C grated fresh mozzarella
  • 1 T olive oil
  • fresh basil leaves

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  2. Run some hot water (not boiling, just hot) and soak the sun dried tomatoes for about 15 minutes.
  3. Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onions, and cook slowly, until caramelized.
  4. Grate the mozzarella cheese.
  5. Drain the tomatoes.
  6. If you bought your dough, cut it in half. Set the other half aside and use another day.
  7. Press the air out of the dough and push it out into a rough circle.
  8. Sprinkle the cheese over the dough, and add the onions and tomatoes.
  9. Drizzle with more olive oil.
  10. Sprinkle a flat sheet pan (or pizza stone if you have one) with cornmeal (so it doesn't stick).
  11. Put into the oven and bake for 15 minutes until the crust is brown and bubbly.
  12. Top with fresh basil leaves.

Substitutions and Variations for Pizza Without Ricotta

Of course, there are almost as many possibilities for this as there are ingredients.

  • Use a mixture of mozzarella and goat cheese
  • Add mushrooms and/or eggplant to the onions
  • Saute some spinach after the onions are done and add that to the pizza
  • Add some garlic
  • Sprinkle some parmesan or manchego on top

More Italian and Pizza Recipes

Pasta alla Norma with Eggplant

Pistachio Pesto Pasta Recipe

Goat Cheese Caramelized Onion Pizza

Homemade Tortilla Crust Pizza

Tools and Ingredients for White Pizza Without Ricotta


Oxo Box Grater

As much as I love my zester, there are times when only an old-fashioned box grater will do the job. The zester grates far too finely for this purpose. This box grater is from Oxo, so it’s easy to hold. It even comes with a little container to catch all the grated cheese (so it doesn’t get all over your counter). The container (and its lid) all fit inside the grater, to take up less space in your kitchen. Or, you can use the closed container to store any leftovers until the next time.


Trasder Joe’s Sun Dried Tomatoes

Soft, moist and delicious. Use this for this pizza recipe, for pasta with sun dried tomatoes and feta, stuff them into chicken, or make them with pasta in a cream sauce.




Savory Mac and Cheese Recipe with Three Cheeses

There are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of mac and cheese recipes out there: three cheese, four cheese, and on and on. This savory mac and cheese recipe is a bit different. First, it’s both savory and cheesy, second it’s sized for just one person. No leftovers.

I got the idea for this recipe from a friend who made it with sun dried tomatoes. I tried it that way, but wasn’t mad about the combination.  However, the idea to add bay leaf and garlic is inspired.  I know it sounds odd, but the garlic becomes mellow once you cook it, and the bay leaf complements the cheese.




I’ve used three cheeses: cheddar, mozzarella, and manchego. My friend used cheddar and parmesan. You can follow my version, or his, or make up your own. Provolone would work too.  I even recently had mac and cheese that had muenster in it, which worked surprisingly well.

One thing though, he used low fat milk, which I would never do.  You can, if you want to.

Savory Three Cheese Mac and Cheese

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Category: lunch

Cuisine: American

one serving

Savory Three Cheese Mac and Cheese

Savory mac and cheese with three cheeses, bay leaf, and garlic.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 C dry short pasta (macaroni, fusilli, or shells are fine)
  • 2 tsp butter
  • 1 tsp flour
  • 1 clove garlic, mashed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 C milk
  • 1/3 C cheese (mixture of shredded cheddar, edam, and manchego, or whatever cheeses you like)
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Boil the water for the pasta in a medium size saucepan.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a small saucepan.
  3. Add the flour, stirring continuously until it thickens and you get a roux. It should look like a paste.
  4. Then add the garlic and the bay leaf.
  5. Slowly add the milk, and bring it to a slow boil, stirring until it thickens. It should now start to look more like a sauce.
  6. Add the shredded cheese and let the sauce simmer on a low flame until the cheese melts.
  7. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add the nutmeg and the thyme.
  8. Strain the pasta and pour into a dish. Add the cheese sauce and stir to combine it all together.

Notes

Note: I left the bay leaf on top for contrast and color in the image. Don't eat it!

Savory Mac and Cheese Recipe Substitutions and Variations

  • as suggested above, mix and match the cheese you use
  • add the sun dried tomatoes when you mix the cheese and pasta together (just because I didn’t care for it, doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea)
  • cook some bacon and crumble that on top
  • include some caramelized onions
  • top with prosciutto

More Savory Pasta Recipes

Pasta Alla Norma with Eggplant

Pasta with Broccoli and Chicken Sausage

Summer Pasta with Green Olives and Feta Cheese

Pistachio Pesto Pasta Recipe

Tools and Ingredients for Making Savory Mac and Cheese

small square baking dishsmall square baking dish
Porcelain Square Quiche Dish 

I just got this little dish and I’m really pleased with it. It’s oven, dishwasher, and microwave safe, and it fits in the toaster oven so I don’t have to heat up my big oven to make something small. It’s called a quiche dish, but it was great for mac and cheese, and I intend to use it for single serving apple crisp and brownies. It’s even pretty enough to serve in. The other nice thing is you can buy just one, rather than a set.

small au gratin dishsmall au gratin dish
Porcelain Round Au Gratin Dish

This au gratin dish, from the same company, is also a good option. It has handles to make it easier to pick up and take out of the oven (which I wish I had thought of). It would also make a nice dish for serving scrambled eggs.




Pasta alla Norma with Eggplant

Summer is gone, but I still had a few tomatoes and eggplants left from the farmer’s market. There was also some fresh mozzarella cheese in the fridge, and a friend posted a lovely photo of her caprese salad.  Inspiration struck, and I thought I’d put them together to make pasta alla norma (pasta with eggplant).

It’s a slightly spicy pasta dish with fresh eggplant, and tomato sauce, topped with manchego cheese. This is a great meal when you’re in a hurry, as it’s pretty easy to throw together.

The recipe is typically made with long pasta, but I only had short, curly pasta so I used that instead.

The original recipe (from the New York Times) called for lots and lots of olive oil.  I love olive oil, but so does eggplant. It just slurps it up! However, I found that by cooking the eggplant on a low flame, it used a lot less olive than it would otherwise.



 

Pasta alla Norma

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Category: entree

Cuisine: Italian

one serving

Pasta alla Norma

Pasta alla norma (with eggplant and red pepper flakes)

Ingredients

  • 2-3 slices of eggplant, cut into thin strips (like fries)
  • 2-3 T olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • generous pinch dried pepper flakes
  • pinch oregano
  • 1 1/2 tsp tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup pasta
  • boiling water
  • manchego cheese or other hard Italian cheese (grated) for topping

Instructions

  1. Fill a 2 quart saucepan about halfway with water, heat on high, and bring it to a boil.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan on low heat. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
  3. While the eggplant is cooking, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes.
  4. Remove the eggplant from the pan.
  5. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, oregano, and tomato sauce to the frying pan.
  6. When the garlic softens, add the eggplant back into the pan.
  7. Drain the cooked pasta and add it to the eggplant mixture.
  8. Stir to combine the pasta and the eggplant.
  9. Pour the finished dish into a bowl and top with grated cheese.

Notes

If you don't have Manchego cheese, you can use Romano instead.

Caprese Salad

This is so simple, it’s hardly a recipe at all.  Just layer slices of fresh tomato, fresh unsalted mozzarella, and fresh basil leaves.  Top with a generous drizzle of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

More Eggplant Recipes

Eggplant Parmesan

Tortilla Crust Pizza

Vegetarian Eggplant Sandwich for One Person

Sichuan Chinese Chicken and Eggplant with Garlic Sauce

 




 

Compound Butter Cheeseburger

It was National Cheeseburger Day a few weeks ago.  Somehow, I managed to miss it, but celebrating with a compound butter cheeseburger is something you can do any day.  Who needs a holiday?

Compound butter is just a fancy way of saying that you take butter, soften it a bit, and then add other ingredients. Mix them all together and you have compound butter. Once you’ve got that, you add it to your ground beef, form your burger, and start cooking.

There are two good reasons to use compound butters.  The first reason is that it adds extra flavor. And, you can change the flavors by adding different ingredients to the butter (lemon, parsley and garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, a dash of cayenne, hot sauce, whatever you like).

The second reason is that it keeps your burger moist and delicious.  It won’t dry out as much if you overcook it a bit.



Cheeseburger with Compound Butter

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 8 minutes

Total Time: 13 minutes

Category: lunch

Cuisine: American

one serving

Cheeseburger with Compound Butter

Cheeseburger with compound butter.

Ingredients

  • 1T butter, softened
  • one garlic clove, minced
  • pinch dried basil
  • pinch tarragon
  • 4 oz. chopped beef
  • slice cheddar cheese
  • potato roll

Instructions

  1. Remove the butter from the fridge and let it sit for half an hour or so to soften (or pop it in the microwave for a few seconds).
  2. Cut a slice of cheddar cheese, and let it sit on the counter to get to room temperature.
  3. Once the butter is soft, mix in the garlic, basil and tarragon.
  4. Add the butter mixture to the ground beef, season with salt and pepper and form into a patty.
  5. Heat the pan on high heat. Cook on one side for three minutes, then turn over and cook for another three minutes (medium-rare). Add the cheddar cheese and cook another minute or two until it melts.
  6. Remove the burger from the pan and let it rest for a minute.
  7. Place burger on roll and enjoy!

Notes

If you're using grass-fed beef, the instructions are a bit different. In that case, add about a teaspoon or two of olive oil to the pan.

Sear the burger on one side, turn the heat down to medium-low and cook for three minutes. Turn the burger over, and cook another three minutes. Then add the cheese and cook for a minute. Let the burger rest for two-three minutes before you eat it.

Grass-fed beef has to be cooked slower and on a lower flame than standard beef. It's lower in fat, so you need to add some oil.

Substitutions and Variations

  • I’ve used garlic, basil, and tarragon in my compound butter, but you can use any herbs you like.
  • Or, you can kick it up a notch with some cayenne or sriracha.
  • Replace the garlic with a few sun dried tomatoes.
  • Make a quick aioli (mayonnaise, garlic, salt, pepper, a splash of olive oil, and a bit of lemon juice), or add crisp bacon.

It’s pretty easy to do and fun to play with.

I served it on a fresh potato roll, but you can use a standard burger bun or a kaiser roll,  or even an English muffin if you like.

Tools and Ingredients for this Recipe


Norpro Porcelain 3-Ounce Ramekins, Set of 6

These are extremely handy. I use them to soften the butter (without having an entire extra pan to clean).  They are also great for serving condiments or sauces on the side.  I even have a larger one that I use as a mini sugar bowl. They’re safe to use in the oven and the microwave.




More Recipes with Ground Beef

Sloppy Joe Recipe for One Person

Easy Italian Meatball Recipe for One

Small Batch Spicy Stovetop Chili Recipe

Easy Italian Wedding Soup

Three Cheese Grilled Cheese Sandwich

It seems almost silly to write a recipe for a grilled cheese sandwich.  This was just too good, gooey, and cheesy not to share.

Grilled cheese and a hot bowl of tomato soup (if not homemade, then Pacific roasted red pepper and tomato soup) is one of the best comfort food lunches ever.  Well, maybe a tie with macaroni and cheese.

OK, OK, I am a cheeseaholic. I must be part mouse.  If something has cheese (not bleu cheese though),  I will probably want to eat it.

Back to the recipe, I had a few slices of whole wheat bread which I had to use up quickly because they were going to go stale.  Plus Passover was coming (so no bread allowed for a week).

I love grilled cheese and this is where buying cheese ends comes in handy.  I had some cheddar, some monterey jack, and some Swiss cheese left in the container, plus I had just bought some fresh mushrooms and spinach.




Three Cheese Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Category: sandwich

Cuisine: American

one serving

Three Cheese Grilled Cheese Sandwich

three cheese grilled cheese sandwich with spinach and mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 2 slices whole wheat bread
  • 8 or nine cheese cubes, cut up, or several slices of your favorite cheeses
  • spinach leaves, washed and dried
  • 2 or 3 button mushrooms, sliced
  • canola or olive oil

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a small saucepan. Once that's hot, saute the mushrooms until they lose their liquid and turn slightly brown.
  2. Add the spinach and cook for a minute, until the spinach wilts. Remove the vegetables and set them aside.
  3. Put the cheese between the slices of bread and cook for a minute or two on low-medium heat. Watch it carefully so it doesn't burn. When the cheese starts to melt a bit, turn the sandwich over.
  4. Take off the top slice of bread, add the spinach and mushroom mixture, and then replace the bread. Add more oil if necessary. Let it cook for a minute or two until the rest of the cheese melts and the bottom of the sandwich is golden brown.

Notes

This would also work well with ciabetta bread or a peasant bread.

Three Cheese Grilled Cheese Sandwich Substitutions and Variations

  • use olive oil instead of canola oil, or a mixture of butter and oil
  • swap the three cheeses for mozzarella and replace the spinach with eggplant (this would work even better with ciabetta instead of whole wheat)

More Sandwich Recipes

Chicken Caprese Salad Panini Sandwich

Bacon Spinach Tomato Aioli Sandwich Recipe

Vegetarian Eggplant Sandwich for One Person