When I left my apartment this morning, a chilly wind mussed the yellow-green-red-orange leaves in the trees while it whipped my almost-dry hair into snarled submission. As I squinted into the crisp, blue sky, I thought—
Crap. I can’t do this. I’m still not ready to write about autumn. Sorry, folks.
Today’s recipe features the juicy, tart strawberries I loved all summer. There’s really nothing fall-like about it. The chewy toasts topped with goat cheese, basil, and summer berries macerated in sweet balsamic vinegar are a perfect appetizer for your next dinner party. In July.
One night I was craving a hearty salad with sweet-tart, fresh fruit vinaigrette. I’d already made salad dressings with lemon, orange, and tangerine, but I wanted to move out of the citrus family and try something different.
And that’s when inspiration struck – I could transform the classic combination of strawberries and balsamic vinegar into a savory salad dressing, with layer upon layer of flavors.
Juicy, caramelized strawberries, fresh garlic, creamy-sharp Dijon mustard, a tender kiss of wild blackberry honey, and aged balsamic vinegar.
Sadly, this brilliant idea occurred to me five months ago, in the dead of Minnesota winter, when strawberries—if they could be found at all—were dry and wooden.
That left me with 147 long, cold days to dream of ripe, juicy berries. In those 147 days, I wondered just what would happen when you roasted strawberries. I finally had a chance to roast strawberries last week, and as it turns out, this is what it smells like when doves cry.
The strawberry halves gently caramelized in the oven, their juices slowly seeping out and thickening, before they became the foundation of my new favorite salad dressing. I tossed the dressing with romaine hearts and scallions, then topped the greens with roasted chicken, goat cheese, and sweet-n-spicy candied almonds.
I’m kicking off National Grilled Cheese Month (yes, this is a real thing in the world) with a lesson in balance. My first grilled cheese has it all: crispy, golden-butter bread; gooey, salty jack cheese with spicy pops of jalapeno; savory, herbaceous turkey tenderloin; and a sweet glaze of strawberry jam.
And since this is Grilled Cheese Post: The First, I’ll lay down a few ground rules I like to follow in my own grilled cheesing:
Begin with 2 slices of bread that are roughly the same size and shape.
For even toasting, butter the bread (on the OUTSIDE of the sandwich), not the griddle.
Top the bread with cheese. For optimum meltage, nothing should come between the cheese and the bread.
Keep sauces and condiments in the center of the sandwich to avoid sogging the bread.
Grill sandwiches with hard cheeses over low heat to avoid burning the bread before the cheese melts. Dome if necessary.
Grill sandwiches with soft cheeses over high heat to toast the bread quickly before the cheese liquefies.
These are only guidelines. Grilled cheese means never having to say you’re sorry.